The 35-year-old Woods is bullish about his chances to end a two-year victory drought when play starts Thursday at the Chevron World Challenge at moncler jackets Sherwood Country Club. Woods, the host of the event, is paired with Steve Stricker. At No. 6, Stricker is the highest-ranked player in the 18-man field, which includes eight players in the world top 20.
Graeme McDowell, who came from four strokes behind on the final day to beat Woods in a playoff last year, will not defend his crown. He is playing instead in a big-money event in South Africa.
Woods said the difference in his game now as opposed to a year ago was he no longer has to rely on his putter to save him from his wildness off the tee. He made a joke to drive home his point, knitting together questions in his pretournament news conference Wednesday about the state of his swing and a hockey goalie mask that bore his autograph that was for sale on eBay for nearly $5,000.
“I’m swinging the club well enough that you don’t need to walk out there with hockey helmets on,” Woods said.
There may be other hazards, though. The weather forecast for Thursday calls for gusts reaching 30 to 40 miles per hour. If Woods is not striking the ball solidly, his every flaw will be exposed in the wind.
After playing well in the wind in Sydney, finishing third in the Australian Open, Woods is confident he can weather any conditions.
“Playing in Oz for two weeks, Men - moncler jackets it was fantastic,” he said. “I hit all shapes, all trajectories, and if you look at the rounds, I hit most of my shots pin-high. That’s an indication if the wind’s blowing that hard, that I’m really controlling my trajectory well.”
Woods had not gone a full season without a victory until 2010, and now he is staring at the possibility of going consecutive seasons without an individual title. It has been so long since Woods could taste victory, his good friend and fellow golfer Notah Begay asked him this week how it felt to be in that position late in the final round in Sydney.
“I told him I felt nothing,” Woods said, “and he said: ‘Good, because you’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to be normal. You’re supposed to be there.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I know.’ ” He added: “On Sunday, I felt the same way I did the first three days, and that’s a good sign. I feel very comfortable being up there.”
Woods said the progress he had made since missing the cut at the P.G.A. Championship in August was palpable. “Absolutely, I can sense it,” Woods said. “I’ve made tremendous strides.”
When his ball-striking is solid, Woods said, everything is easier. “If you’re hitting the ball well, moncler jackets for women there’s very little stress because you’re missing all those golf shots in the right spot,” he said. “You’re not going to hit all perfect golf shots for 18 holes, but as long as you miss in the right spots, it’s easy to get up and down.”