Tiger Woods is aiming to return to the top of the world rankings with a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday. Woods, the defending champion, has won the event seven times already, and with the recent official public announcement (and professional couple pictures!) of his relationship with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, he’s already the sure favorite.
Woods, who seemed like he was in particularly good spirits on Wednesday at Bay Hill, explained to the press the reasoning behind it (which was pretty predictable):
“Well, it’s very simple,” he said. “We’re very happy where we’re at, but also we wanted to limit the stalk‑a-razzi and all those sleazy websites that are out there following us. I’ve had situations where it’s been very dangerous for my kids and the extent they’ll go to. We basically devalued the first photos.
“Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is in our society right now, and we felt like it was the best thing to do. I’m very happy about it.”
And no, he doesn’t plan on asking Rory McIlroy for advice on being an athletic power couple.
Tiger is now focused on winning for the eighth time at Bay Hill and regaining the top ranking.
“Well, it’s been a long process,” Woods said “I mean, I was hurt for a long time, and at the same time, I had to make swing changes that were drastically different than what I was doing before. It’s taken some time. I fell to 50 plus (in the world) there for a while. To gradually work my way back, that’s something I’m proud of. I’ve got five wins in the last couple of years, and that’s something I’m very proud of.”
“We’re still getting better. Things are still becoming more efficient. These two wins I’ve had this year I’ve built myself some nice leads which means that I’ve played really well, and things are starting to come around and become more efficient day‑in and day‑out.”
Woods, who has won twice since rumors of him and Vonn dating surfaced, has been happy with his play so far this season, unlike in recent years, where he felt hampered with his inability to score.
“I was very, very frustrated at times…with my chipping, and putting and scoring, and not making the crucial save here and there,” said Tiger, who tees off No. 10 with Ernie Els and Justin Rose at 8:05am on Thursday. “But I’ve always enjoyed taking time off and practicing and preparing. If you looked over my career when I’ve taken breaks and come back, I’ve come back better. That’s just how I’ve always been.
“I’ve been one of those guys that I practice really hard at home. I can work on different stuff. There’s a certain method to how I do it, practicing and playing and playing more. When I come out here, I’m not just coming out here rusty. I’ve played quite a bit of holes right before I’ve come back‑‑ well, when I’ve been healthy enough to do it. That’s been the biggest difference the last couple of years I’ve been able to do that now. Hence, the results have been so much better than they were a few years ago.”
More quotes from Tiger’s presser:
Q. The statement, “Tiger Woods is not completely back until he wins a major,” is that fair?
TIGER WOODS: I think that’s based on opinion. I feel like I’m headed in the right direction. I’m very pleased where I’ve come from. Like I said, 50‑plus to where I’m at is no small task, and I’d like to get to 19‑plus myself.
Q. Leading into that. Your and Jack’s career arc are kind of intersecting here at a point with career starts and victories and everything. What does that tell you about your career clock and how much more time you might have to win these things?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Jack did it until he was 46. I just feel like over the years he was the most consistent at putting himself in position to win major championships and win tournaments. If you look at his playing schedule, he didn’t really play that many events. He played under 20 most of his career. He was prepared when he did play. I felt like that’s something I’ve done.
You start realizing that it gets a little more difficult as you get older to balance. You have more things that are going on. I mean, he had, I think, five kids I think he had, trying to balance a family and golf course design. He owned MacGregor at the time, a bunch of different things going on. It becomes more things are pulling at you away from winning golf tournaments, and it’s about getting the balance. That’s just life.
He was better at that than anybody else, and hopefully over the course of my career when all is said and done, I was pretty good at it as well.
Q. In your mind, is it ever good enough to be ranked as no. 2? What does it take for you to get back as No. 1?
TIGER WOODS: Well, to get back to No. 1, I’ve got to win this week. Not too complicated. As far as getting back to No. 1 and all that entails, it’s not easy to get there in the first place. I don’t think people really realize how hard it is to become No. 1 in the world. But then to then sustain it for a number of years is not easy as well.
So it’s about winning golf tournaments, and when you don’t win, being in the Top 5 and continue racking up points.
Q. Do you think you can become as good as you once were?
TIGER WOODS: I don’t want to become as good as I once was. No, I don’t. I want to become better.
Q. Do you think you’ll achieve that?
TIGER WOODS: We’ll see.
Q. When your ranking dropped into the 50s as you alluded to, how did you view the probability that you would return to 1 at the low point, wherever you view it?
TIGER WOODS: I just needed to get healthy. Once I got healthy and I was able to practice properly, I felt like then I could implement the swing changes that Sean wanted me to put in there and I would get back there. But I needed to get healthy enough where I could practice. I just happened‑‑ it happened to be a perfect storm where I was making a swing change, and I was hurt, and I couldn’t devote any time to it. And the philosophies are so different that I needed time, and I didn’t have the ability to practice and spend the hours I needed to my game. Once I was able to do that, slowly but surely, I started to gain momentum, and here we are.
Q. In the midst of all of that, Tiger, what doubt did you have?
TIGER WOODS: I didn’t have the doubt that I think people might have expected. I just felt that I needed to get healthy enough where things just didn’t hurt.
I’ve always been pretty good in my career when I could practice, and I think my record reflects that. But I just wasn’t able to do that. Now I’ve been able to do that for the last couple of years, and you can see the results now.
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)