Abu Dhabi: Last year around this time, just ahead of his appearance at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, Tiger Woods had had just one tournament win, at Sherwood, in 2011. This was his first success since 2009, though it was an unofficial event.
However, the golfing great starts 2013 in Abu Dhabi on a totally different note to last year, having won three tournaments in 2012 to propel him to number three in the world rankings. He’s also mentally positive and physically fit as he continues to chase more Tour wins and Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Major wins.
Woods told Gulf News that he was keen to get off to a winning start after missing out in the final stages last year, and insisted he has enough years of golf left in which to overtake Nicklaus’ record.
The 14-time Major winner said: “I certainly feel I can contend and still win majors. I played well in spots in 2012 and was disappointed to fall short.
“I think I can add to the 14 major titles I have and I’m excited to try again in 2013. I don’t feel burdened by Jack’s record. It took Jack a career to reach 18. Hopefully I have a lot of years left,” said Woods, who ended 2012 ranked behind Britain’s Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald in the world rankings.
Commenting on his third-place finish here last year, Woods said: “I hit the ball well enough to win, but in the end I came up a little short. Once I adjusted to the greens, I putted pretty well and I gave myself a real chance.
“Unfortunately, on the Sunday I didn’t hit as many fairways as I needed to. I was just a touch off on the tee, and consequently I couldn’t get the ball close enough to give myself enough chances on the greens. It’s a great course that suits my eye and HSBC and the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority put on a wonderful event, so it’s a great place for me to open my season,” Woods said.
The former world number one, who in 2012 played his first full schedule in a long time, starts the new year refreshed after a well-earned rest.
“I took a break from golf after the World Challenge in California, and have been working hard both on and off the course. I want to try to get myself in position with a chance to win in Abu Dhabi in 2013,” he said.
“I really enjoyed visiting Abu Dhabi; everything from the weather to the fans to the course to the facilities makes it a great place to begin my year. It’s a tournament I really want to win after coming so close in January. It would be a great way to start 2013,” Woods added.
The American’s tussle with world number one Rory McIlroy will be one of the highlights of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship which runs from January 17-20.
Speaking in October about the pair’s impending duel in the capital, McIlroy said: “I have come close a few times in Abu Dhabi now. Hopefully it’s my turn.”
“This will be the first time I have headed to Abu Dhabi as world number one and I am determined to keep the wins coming and cement my ranking. The strength of field means there will be a ton of world-ranking points on offer, so Abu Dhabi will be a really significant tournament that sets the tone for the year.
“I had a great tussle with Tiger nine months ago and I am sure he will be in contention again. We have spent a lot of time playing together this year, and it is always fun challenging the best. I have made no secret of the fact he is a hero of mine, and there is nothing better than tussling with your heroes.”
McIlroy finished second in Abu Dhabi last year to surprise winner, England’s Robert Rock.
Woods finished tied for third with Thomas Bjorn and Graeme McDowell.