Woods has final shot to avoid winless year

Tiger Woods from the United States lines up a putt during the final round of the Australian Masters at Victoria Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday. Defending champion Woods made two eagles over the last four holes for a 6-under 65 to finish fourth.



THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. --- The goal for Tiger Woods has always been to be better than he was the year before. Despite losing his marriage and every tournament he played, he still gave himself a passing grade.

"As a golfer, I learned so much more this year than any other year -- and as a person, infinitely more," Woods said Tuesday.

It was a year that Woods described as "harder than anyone could have imagined."

Woods has one last chance to pick up a victory, even though it won't count as official on the PGA Tour. He is the tournament host of the Chevron World Challenge, which starts Thursday with an 18-man field of players inside the top 50 in the world.

Woods has not lost at this event since 2005, although he didn't play the past two years. He missed in 2008 while recovering from knee surgery, and last year's tournament was a week after his Thanksgiving night accident that led to revelations of infidelity.

"It's been difficult, but also it's been very rewarding at the same time," Woods said. "... I'm very excited about the future because of that."

EUROPE'S TOP ROOKIE: Matteo Manassero is the PGA European Tour's Rookie of the Year after becoming the youngest player to win a tour event.

The Italian finished 31st on the European money list with $1.17 million following a season in which he won October's Castello Masters at the age of 17 years and 188 days. In April, he also became the youngest amateur to compete in the Masters Tournament and the youngest player to make the cut.

Manassero joins a group that includes Nick Faldo , Jose Maria Olazabal , Colin Montgomerie and Sergio Garcia in winning the award.

SONY SPONSORSHIP: Sony Corp. has extended title sponsorship of the Sony Open in Hawaii through 2014 and will broadcast the PGA Tour event in January live in 3-D. It will be played Jan. 13-16 at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.