Tiger Woods happy with 2012 despite lack of majors
THE majors eluded him again and he did not win a single game at the Ryder Cup, but Tiger Woods still rates 2012 "a really good year" and he has time yet to make it even better.
Woods plays this week in the 48-man CIMB Classic at The Mines in Malaysia before heading to China for a one-day duel with world number one Rory McIlroy on Monday.
Three victories on the PGA Tour this season took him past Jack Nicklaus's career total of 73, leaving only Sam Snead ahead of him on 82, but he remains four behind Nicklaus's 18-major record and has not been able to close the gap for more than four years now.
The 36-year-old told reporters in Kuala Lumpur after a pro-am in which he partnered Prime Minister Najib Razak: "It's a really good year, no doubt, but winning a major championship just makes it a great year.
"The majors are such a different animal and different breed and we place so much emphasis on them."
Since the last of his 14 majors Woods has been through a sex scandal, a divorce, knee surgery and, under a new coach in Canadian Sean Foley, another change of swing.
Happy with the progress he has made on the course and optimistic about what the future holds, it is off the course that still matters to him the most.
"Golf has always been a high priority in my life but family has been number one, so that hasn't changed," he said.
"I certainly want to break Jack's record and catch Snead's record, but being the best father I can possibly be to my two great kids, that is certainly number one in my life."
This time last year he stood 55th in the world, having fallen from second during the season, but he has made it back to number two and it is his driving that has pleased him most.
"I'm excited about turning some of my weaknesses into strengths," he added. "I hadn't driven very well in a very long time, but this year is probably the best I have driven in my entire career."
In driving accuracy on the PGA Tour he has improved from 186th last season to 53rd and it has not come at a sacrifice of distance - that is up by nearly four yards and his position is up from 71st to 35th.
McIlroy is the only player ahead of him not just on the world rankings, but also the PGA Tour money list and the circuit's scoring average - by 0.03 shots per round.
The pair met in Turkey two weeks ago, with Woods coming out on top and taking his head-to-head record against the Northern Irish star to 8-2.
But it is McIlroy, of course, who has added to his major tally this year and he was the one celebrating Ryder Cup success too.
With the 23-year-old in Shanghai along with 10 of his Medinah team-mates, the only Europeans in Malaysia are Scot Martin Laird and Swede Carl Pettersson, but Woods can expect the biggest challenge to come from compatriots Bo Van Pelt and Jason Dufner.
They finished first and second at the Perth International on Sunday and Van Pelt is also the defending champion.