Woods seeks results in return to stroke play

Chris Thelen/Staff
Tiger Woods said he is experiencing little pain in his reconstructed left knee heading into the CA Championship. It is his first stroke play event since the 2008 U.S. Open.

DORAL, Fla. --- If you're wondering how long the grace period extends for Tiger Woods to become Tiger Woods again, here's your answer.


"I'm ready to win, yeah," Woods said Wednesday, the eve of the WGC CA Championship at Doral Golf Resort & Spa. "That's why I'm here."

Sure, Woods says that everywhere he plays. Yes, he even said it two weeks ago in the Arizona desert when he made the first official test run on his reconstructed knee at the WGC Match Play after an eight-month layoff.

But that was match play, a fickle format where one hot player can run you out of town just as Tim Clark did to Woods in the second round. To draw any conclusions from that result was folly.

This week, with a scheduled 72 holes against a stellar field on a hard course, is a better barometer. And Woods is keen on seeing results.

"Getting into a stroke-play event where you're not playing an opponent and you're playing the golf course again; I'll have a better idea when the tournament is done," he said.

"I've only played basically two rounds, or two tournaments in, what, 10 months?" he said. "Not a whole lot of golf. So for me, I just need rounds under my belt, and this week will obviously be a very positive week for me: Four rounds and no cut to get four more rounds competitively, which is exactly what I need."

With only a month to go before the Masters Tournament, it is just nice to see Woods on the podium again saying that everything physically is "better than I thought." And it was nice to hear him delivering his little messages through the media.

Asked whether Augusta National Golf Club still fits his eye as much as it used to and whether he would be taking any scouting trips to see the course before the Masters, Woods used the opportunity to insert a simple plea for the benefit of club chairman Billy Payne.

"I just hope the excitement comes back on the back nine; it's not what it used to be," said Woods, lamenting the volatility of the par-5 13th and 15th holes that used to be more reachable.

Since he brought up the subject, he was encouraged to elaborate.

"I miss guys being able to go out there and shoot 31 on that back nine and win a championship," said Woods, the runner-up from each of the past two Masters, who capped even-par rounds with 35 and 36, respectively, on the back. "You know, granted, we have had bad weather the last two years and that's aided the high scoring. But hopefully we can get some good weather and the ball will be flying again, like it can, and guys will be a little bit more aggressive on that back nine and create a little more excitement on Sunday."

Woods is working to make sure he's part of that Sunday equation again. He is encouraged by the way he feels so far after enduring pain in his left knee for so long.

"I really don't feel much, which is weird," he said of his knee. "I've had it sore for so many years, to wake up in the morning and not have it throbbing is a different feeling. It's great."

The match play performance and aftermath only reinforced his enthusiasm.

"It was a big shot of confidence for me to get out there and play again and feel physically sound," he said. "To walk out there and play and then compete and get a feel for that competitive environment was everything I could possibly have imagined."

What Woods doesn't yet know is how his game stacks up to his peers as he ratchets up his preparation for the Masters. His annual mission has always been to peak four times a year at the major championships, but he never has tried to do it coming off such a long layoff.

"It is much different, because obviously I had an idea of how my game was, and the things I needed to work on, where I needed to have my game go towards," he said of his past preparations. "Right now, that's kind of out. I don't really know yet.

"That's why it's nice to be able to have the four rounds here and get into a competitive stroke-play mode again. I've only had the two matches there in Arizona and that's it. But other than that, it will be nice to get a better understanding of what I need to work on come the next month."

So when should we expect to see results consistent with the old Tiger Woods?

"Probably maybe the next couple of weeks would be nice," he said. "Start to dial it in a little bit more."

At least we know that we don't hold Woods to any higher standard than he does himself.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.


WHERE: Doral Golf Resort & Spa, Blue Course (7,266 yards, par 72); Doral, Fla.

ON TV: Golf Channel (Today-Friday, 2-6 p.m.,

8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.) and NBC-Ch. 26 (Saturday, 2-6 p.m.; Sunday, 3-7 p.m.)

DEFENDING CHAMP: Geoff Ogilvy, who won in a Monday finish to end Tiger Woods' PGA Tour winning streak at five tournaments and overall run at seven.

OF NOTE: Woods is making his second start since missing eight months to recover from knee surgery.



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