Woods' game starting to show real signs of progress

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Halleran/Getty Images
November 30, 2011
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- If knowledge is power, then Tiger Woods appears to be well on his way to returning to at least some version of his former self.

A year ago, he teased us by nearly winning the Chevron World Challenge before Graeme McDowell out-highlight reeled him.

It was all a mirage, though.

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Woods wasn't close to be being "back," his body wasn't healthy and he barely knew the swing changes he was trying to implement under then still-new coach Sean Foley. Woods didn't even know what his numbers were on TrackMan, the high-tech device that measures ball flight, trajectory, spin rate and other integral data.

For Woods, who is about as meticulous as Peyton Manning when it comes to his craft, not to know something about his game says a lot.

"I wasn't as knowledgeable about what I was working on then as I am now," Woods said Wednesday. "That's what was so exciting about Australia is that excluding one day where I hit, what, three bad tee shots and didn't make any putts, I played really good, and that's exciting.

"I know when I hit a bad shot. I know exactly what it is, so I can rectify it the very next shot. Back then I was still learning what he's trying to teach me. That was the frustrating thing because I could go a spell where I'd play poorly for a couple holes and not know what the fix was. Now it's immediate."

The results, at least in terms of wins, of course haven't been.

The process of rebuilding his swing -- not to mention his body and subsequently his confidence -- has been slow but steady.

At the Frys.com Open in October, which was Woods' first event in nearly two months after missing the cut at the PGA Championship and the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup, he strung together three-straight rounds of 68.

A month after that, Woods led going into the weekend at the Australian Open, where he finished third.

Then there was the clinching putt at The Presidents Cup.

That's called progress. And Woods can sense it, too.

"Absolutely," he said. "I've made tremendous strides.

"In the wind you get exposed, and if you saw what I did in Australia, I hit the ball pretty good."

It's certainly a far cry from where the former No. 1 player in the world was a year ago, and certainly two years ago.

Woods is healthy, happy and clearly hasn't lost his sense of humor.

Asked about a hockey helmet he supposedly signed years ago that is listed for auction on eBay, Woods didn't recall the item but did offer a gem of a one-liner that was also telling about the state of his game.

"Well, I'm swinging the club well enough that you don't need to walk out there with a hockey helmet on," Woods joked.

Ba-da boom.

In the joke lies some truth, however -- Woods did rank 186th in driving accuracy on the PGA TOUR this year.

But if you've watched Tiger the last couple of months there have been clear signs of progress.

Remember, knowledge is power.

"I feel very excited about next year," Woods said. "If you're hitting the ball well, there's very little stress. 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."

And a lot easier to win.

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