Tuesday 20 March 2018

Woods refuses to give up on Nicklaus record

Tiger Woods will be seeking to prove his doubters wrong with a convincing performance at the Open
Tiger Woods will be seeking to prove his doubters wrong with a convincing performance at the Open
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

"Write me off at your peril" - that was the message of defiance from Tiger Woods to his critics.

Woods has not given up on his dream of beating Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 Major titles.

And Rory McIlroy might take note of the American's admission that complete recovery from back surgery which affected his 2014 season has taken up to a year.

McIlroy's ruptured ankle ligament may not be as serious as a back operation, but Woods made it clear that it takes time to get over injuries.

Woods feels he has served his time in that respect, and quietly but firmly asserts that he should not be discounted as a contender at the Open Championship at St Andrews this week.

The jury is out on that one, after some horror scores this season, including an 82 at the Waste Management Open, 85 at the Memorial, and 80 in the US Open.

He needs a strong performance this week if he is to convince the doubters that he can be a force again.

A questioner even dared to mention the word 'retirement' to Woods and did well to avoid a verbal mauling, because this is a man who refuses to quit.

"Retirement? I don't have any AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) card yet, so I'm a way from that," said Woods.

"I feel like my body is finally healed up from the surgery from last year.

"They say it takes you about four to six months to get back, but I've heard a lot of guys on Tour who have had the surgery and other athletes who say it takes over a year to get back.

"I've changed the golf swing on top of that, and so that was kind of a double-dipper there where I had to fight both at the same time."

His last and 14th Major win came in the US Open of 2008, when Woods overcame the agony of a serious knee injury to defeat Rocco Mediate in a play-off.

That was the year before the eruption of the personal turmoil that was to blight Woods' family life and affect his career.

He recently also had another blip away from golf when his relationship with girlfriend Lindsey Vonn broke up.

If Woods is to seek solace on the golf course, he needs to build on the decent display of the Greenbrier Classic from July 2-5 in which he shot 66, 69, 71, 67 for seven under par overall and a joint 32nd placing.

"I hit the ball great at Greenbrier," he said.

"It was the first time I had led 'proximity to the hole' stats with my iron play in I don't know how many years, so that was a very good sign.

"As bad as I putted that week, I was only four shots out of a play-off."

Over the last couple of days at St Andrews he has looked as if he's enjoying himself in practice as he got re-acquainted with the venue where he won in 2005.

Woods takes heart from seeing progress in the development of his swing alterations under the guidance of coach Chris Como.

However well it has been going on the practice ground, the acid test is how the swing performs under pressure out on the course.

So far, so good, it seems as Woods said: "I'm playing better. I'm hitting the ball much, much more solid.

"I've been very comfortable changing my trajectories, that's something that I feel you have to do here."

Woods is four Majors shy of equalling Nicklaus' record that looks an increasingly distant target as he prepares to enter his 40s.

Is it a dream too far off at this point?

"No, not at all. I'm still young. I'm not 40 yet. I know some of you guys think I'm buried and done, but I'm still right here in front of you," he said.

"Yeah, I love playing. I love competing, and I love playing these events. I'm excited to be here."

Irish Independent

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