Rested Woods ready to claim Royal crown
Tiger Woods insists his prolonged breaks away from the game give him the best possible chance of contending for The Open at Royal Portrush this week.
The 43-year-old Masters champion hasn't played since he finished tied 21st in the US Open four weeks ago and clocked up only 10 competitive rounds since he captured his 15th Major in spectacular fashion at Augusta National.
However, the world No 5 believes that time away from the game is the new normal for him since he had spinal fusion surgery.
He said as much yesterday after playing all 18 holes in the prevailing northwest wind - the opposite wind to what's been forecast for this week.
"The breaks are always great for my golf," said Woods, who didn't pick up a golf club for two weeks after the US Open, spending a fortnight in Thailand with his mother Tida (75) and his family.
"I told you guys last year that I wasn't going to play as much this year, and it's going to turn out that way," said Woods.
On his trip to his mother's homeland of Thailand, he told reporters: "We had the greatest time. It was an amazing experience. Especially since my mom, her health has been diminishing, and we didn't know if she could do this too many times in the future.
"It was pretty cool for (the kids) to experience the culture, especially at such a young age. From being over there so many times, I knew the culture. I was raised in it. The only thing I didn't try was the spicy food, which is not happening again."
He revealed that they rode elephants in Thailand and he's expecting another adventurous ride at a firm Royal Portrush, where frequent elevation changes, tricky dog-legs and raised greens will pose a demanding test.
"A lot of movement," Woods said of the Dunluce Links, which will host The Open for only the second time since 1951. "A lot of decisions off the tees, with all the angles.
"Now, with the wind switching coming out of the south in the future, a lot of these shots we hit today are useless.
"So we're trying to figure out what lines to take on and what lines not to take on. And these green complexes are so complicated, you have to miss in the right spot."
Woods played with Patrick Reed, but they weren't the only players to arrive early, with Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Jason Day already at the venue yesterday and Jordan Spieth playing a practice round at Portmarnock on Saturday.