“I felt like maybe my game wasn't quite consistent enough to be there at that point,” Woods said of some of his 2012 struggles that included a tie for 40th at the Masters. “I've gotten so much better since those events, and I've cleaned up a lot of different things in my game.”
Most notably his short game.
Woods’ wedges are vastly improved and so is his putting.
“There were a few shots out there that I was excited about that I played,” he said.
Specifically the par-3 14th, where Woods came up short and right of the green in the final round, leaving himself a 20-yard chip shot. He hit it up the hill with a little draw spin and killed it into the grain with the ball stopping within a few feet of the hole.
“To pull off a shot like that when I really need it, it feels pretty sweet,” Woods said.
It also showed the imagination and touch is back, much like his putting. He led the field in strokes gained-putting and leads the PGA TOUR in that stat this season.
“The very beginning of the year I was excited because of how the end of last year turned,” said Woods, who ended last season with three wins.
Right now, this season is turning out pretty well for Woods.
THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. When was the last time Tiger Woods felt this good heading into the year’s first major? “It’s been a few years,” he said. Woods doesn’t open up and get deep very often, but that’s a pretty telling statement, and he was talking about more than just his health. “I'm very pleased that some of the shots that I struggled with last year are now strengths,” Woods said. “One of the things that we need to continue to work on is getting it more refined. My good ones are really good. It’s just making sure the bad ones aren't that bad, whether it's a driver, 3-wood, long-iron, wedge, whatever it is, that I'm missing the ball in the correct spots. That's getting way better.”
2. Woods, by the way, has won three events before the Masters on three other occasions -- in 2000, 2003 and 2008. He did not win the Masters in any of those years. Is there something to that? Not a chance, considering the historic season he had in 2000 and his win on a broken leg at the 2008 U.S. Open.
3. Woods is No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking again, but Rory McIlroy can regain the top spot with a victory this week in Houston.
4. Maybe Rickie Fowler felt the nerves, maybe not. But when you’re two strokes down with three holes to play, you have to do something spectacular. Fowler tried to, but he hit his 7-iron “a little heavy” and ended up in the water on the par-5 16th. The second one in the drink didn’t matter; Fowler was already out of it and deflated. But he certainly wasn’t uncomfortable in the pairing. He and Woods play together regularly at the Medalist and Fowler has his own huge fan base anyway. “I felt like I settled into the round probably the best I had in the final group,” Fowler said. “It's just unfortunate to make that swing at that time.”
5. Speaking of feeling comfortable, Fowler is seeing a different Woods these days. “This year he looks a lot more comfortable out there,” Fowler said. “He doesn't really miss many shots. If he does, it's not by a whole lot.”
6. Brandt Snedeker said last week that sometimes an injury can be a good thing because it allows you to get some rest and reevaluate the year. He needed it after injuring his ribs during his victory at Pebble Beach, but after five weeks away he also looked pretty rusty with a pair of 76s at Bay Hill. Snedeker will try to right the ship this week in Houston.
7. What were Woods and Arnold Palmer cracking up over on the 18th green Monday at Bay Hill? “Boy, I can't say it here,” Woods said. “But it was funny. Really funny, actually.” The way Palmer reacted, it must have been.
8. Stat of the Week I: Woods was a combined 14 under on the par 5s at Bay Hill with nine birdies, three eagles and one bogey. Considering Woods was 13 under for the week that should tell you something about the importance of his dominance on par 5s.
9. Stat of the Week II: Woods’ three eagles last week brings his total for the year to six. He had just four in all of 2012.