MacGinty: Slow burn could fit nicely into Tiger's Master plan
THE abject performance of Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines stirred suspicion that the world No 1 spent minimal time on the golf course between his final competitive round of 2013 on December 8, and last week's Farmers Insurance Open.
If, as experts like Nick Faldo suggested, ring-rust lay behind Tiger's appalling 79 on the South Course last Saturday, it may take a while to work the kinks out of his swing and panel-beat his dented confidence into shape.
This week's Dubai Desert Classic may come too soon for two-time winner Woods to get in the face of 2009 champion Rory McIlroy on the magnificent Majlis Course or, indeed, high-flying Henrik Stenson, the 2007 winner.
Especially as McIlroy followed December's morale-boosting win in Australia by laying a solid pre-season foundation for 2014 in Dubai with coach Michael Bannon and fitness guru Dr Steve McGregor.
But for an annoying foot-fault on Friday in Abu Dhabi, costing him a two-stroke penalty, McIlroy could have won last Sunday week with a performance that contrasted starkly to his clumsy missed cut there in 2013.
Twelve months ago, the Ulsterman was ill-prepared for the new campaign, never mind his equipment change, after understandably chilling out in the wake of his world-conquering feats in 2012.
It's completely out of character for Tiger to look as poorly-prepped as he did in San Diego, a condition exaggerated by playing conditions of Major championship standard.
Let's for a minute suppose the 38-year-old deliberately took a complete six-week break from golf over the festive season to rest, recuperate and spend quality time with his two children and girlfriend Lindsey Vonn.
Tiger certainly won't be concerned if he believes that starting the year on a slow burn will give him the slightest edge in his bid for that elusive 15th Major title at April's Masters.