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Tiger becomes single-minded

With his divorce finally behind him, Tiger Woods will compete in his first tournament in six years as a single man at this week's Barclays Classic in Paramus, New Jersey amid much speculation over his form.

The scandal-hit American world number one has been a shadow of his former dominant self since his double life was exposed at the end of last year following multiple revelations of his marital infidelities.

Woods has yet to win in nine starts this season, produced the worst four-round performance of his PGA Tour career at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and has struggled with his mental focus -- an area of his game where he is usually peerless.

It could be, however, that the finality of his divorce from his Swedish wife Elin will help him practise and play competitive golf more freely with his mind now less prone to wander, quite literally, off course.

Woods is set to tee off in the opening round of the PGA Tour's Barclays Classic at Ridgewood Country Club on Thursday.

Time is not on his side, though, as his 2010 campaign draws to a close. The Barclays Classic is the first of four lucrative FedExCup play-off events and Woods needs to perform well this week if he is to advance further.

The 14-times major winner lies 112th in the standings and only the top 100 players on Sunday will qualify for the second play-off event, the September 3-6 Deutsche Bank Championship in Norton, Massachusetts.

By his own admission, Woods has struggled to regain consistent form since taking a self-imposed five-month break after his private life spectacularly unravelled in late November.

He made an encouraging return to the PGA Tour when he tied for fourth at the US Masters in April and again at the US Open in June but the rest of his year has been forgettable.

Among the low points were a missed cut at the Quail Hollow Championship, a withdrawal from the Players Championship due to a neck injury and a tie for 78th at Firestone in a field of 80 at this month's Bridgestone Invitational.

Eight days ago, Woods tied for 28th at the US PGA Championship, the year's final major, where he began working unofficially with a new swing coach in Canadian Sean Foley.

Asked whether he might recruit Foley full-time, Woods replied: "I still want to pick his brain a little bit more, I don't really have all of his whole concept yet.

"But I like some of the things he had to say about my golf swing."

Comfortably the greatest player of his generation, Woods has not won anywhere in the world since the Australian Masters last November and has lost the aura of invincibility he once enjoyed.

Woods has long targeted the record 18 majors won by his childhood idol Jack Nicklaus and, with just four opportunities each year, he certainly needs to get his game back on track if he is to close the gap.

But the jury is still out on whether he will be able to regain the unwavering on-course focus for which he is renowned.

"It depends on the extent to which he is able to compartmentalise," Dr Joe Parent, Vijay Singh's former mental coach, said. "Your state of mind affects every swing you make. Tiger would have an easier time finding his swing keys if he had general peace of mind."