Tiger finds comfort inside ropes after tough stretch
May 05, 2015
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- May 05, 2015
- Tiger Woods last teed it up at the Masters Tournament in April. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Every year around this time is difficult for Tiger Woods, whose father passed away May 3, 2006. This week got a little tougher when on Sunday he and Lindsey Vonn announced that after three years of dating the two were splitting up because of their hectic schedules.
Vonn had become a major presence in Woods’ life -- when he was on the course, she was often in the gallery to cheer him on; off it she spent a lot of time around Woods’ two children.
“Obviously it does affect me,” Woods said Tuesday from TPC Sawgrass. “It is tough. There's no doubt. I'm not going to lie about that. It is tough. This three-day window is really hard. I haven't slept. It's been -- these three days, May 3 and through the fifth, today, is just brutal on me, and then with obviously what happened on Sunday, it just adds to it.”
Woods hopes to find some comfort inside the ropes. It won’t be easy.
THE PLAYERS Championship is his first start in a month -- he wasn’t eligible for last week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play -- and Woods said he felt rusty in his morning practice round.
“I'd like to say yes,” Woods said when he asked if he took any momentum from his tie for 17th at the Masters, where he returned to golf after a two-month break to focus on improving his game. “I've had some pretty good practice sessions. My short game still feels really good.
“I just need -- we made a couple little swing tweaks since then to keep improving, to keep working on it, to keep getting it better, so that part is still a little bit fresh. I'm going to start playing a little bit more now since I'm in some of these events now, not like last week. I'm able to start playing a regular schedule now and start getting after it.”
THE PLAYERS is the first of four starts in a seven-week stretch for Woods, who showed a vastly improved short game at Augusta National compared to earlier this year when he chunked and bladed several shots and shot a career-high 82 on his way to missing the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
The following week at the Farmers Insurance Open wasn’t much better for Woods, who eventually withdrew during the second round when his back stiffened up during a weather delay and then took a self-imposed sabbatical until his game was “tournament ready.”
But after eight weeks off and working hard on his short game, Woods returned at the Masters and looked sharp around the greens in the year’s first major, where he was tied for fifth going into the final round.
“To go from where I was to being in contention like that, that was a big step,” Woods said.
Now he hopes hecan take another one. Woods admitted the rest of his game still needs work.
“Some of the swing changes we've made are a little bit fresh, so that's going to take a little bit more time,” he said. “But I'm very happy with my short game and where it's at and the way I'm putting, the way I'm feeling.
“I'm happy that I'm able to now create bottom (in my swing) in any spot I want. I'm able to find it, and it doesn't really matter the lie, I'm able to find the bottom, able to use the bounce correctly.”
Two years ago, Woods won for just the second time in his career at THE PLAYERS, but he has had mixed results at the PGA TOUR’s flagship event.
In addition to two victories a dozen years apart, Woods has six finishes outside the top 20 at TPC Sawgrass. He also withdrew twice, in 2010 and 2011, because of injury.
Last year, Woods missed THE PLAYERS because of back surgery.
Then there is the distraction of his split with Vonn.
“I've always had to deal with ... stuff outside the ropes, and once you're inside the ropes it's time to tee it up and time to play,” Woods said. “You go out there, and for me I focus, I get into my little world, my little zone and do the best I possibly can for that.”
Tiger Woods on the challenge of competing at THE PLAYERS