Kuala Lumpur: Tiger Woods has already rated 2012 as a good year. He won’t consider it a great year, because it’s missing one essential ingredient – a major victory – but he’s becoming more confident that 2013 can be.
“I’ve always said winning one major championship turns a good year into a great year,” he said on Wednesday ahead of the CIMB Classic, his first event in Malaysia in 13 years. “We place so much emphasis on them. It’s very similar to what tennis has with the Grand Slam events. Guys can have seven, eight, nine-win seasons, but if they don’t win a Slam, it’s not a great year.
“I remember playing back in ‘99; I had a really good run there, won a bunch of tournaments, but didn’t win a major championship until the last one, the PGA. That all of a sudden changed the whole year.”
Asked about the doping scandal involving Lance Armstrong, Woods said golf couldn’t be compared with cycling, not only because it was more individual, but also because of its ingrained code of honor.
“This is a sport where we turn ourselves in on mistakes,” he said. “A ball moves in the trees, the guys call penalties on themselves. I think that’s one of the neat things about our game, and I think with the (anti-doping) testing, it’s only enhanced that respectability throughout all of sport.”
Woods is back at The Mines Resort and Golf Club for the first time since he won the individual and team titles at the 1999 World Cup.
That, by his standards, was one of many great years until his life and career spiraled out of control in 2009 because of a string of infidelities that led to the breakdown of his marriage.
His three wins on the PGA Tour this season have restored the confidence that was missing during his long title drought – 27 starts in official tournaments – and he says he’s “absolutely” targeting more major titles to challenge Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18. He’s also got Sam Snead’s record for most wins on the tour still in his sights. He moved into second place this year with his 74th win, eight shy of Snead.
“There are things that are certainly more important, and fatherhood is No. 1,” he said. “Golf has always been a high priority in my life, but family has always been No. 1. So that hasn’t changed. So, for me, I certainly want to break Jack’s record and catch Snead’s record. Those are all things that I would love to do ... but being the best father I can possibly be to my two great kids, that certainly is No. 1 in my life.”
There’s not a lot riding on the CIMB Classic for Woods, apart from the $1.3 million first prize and the chance to keep refining his game. It’s a 48-man, no-cut tournament on the par 71, 6,917-yard course at The Mines that is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, though it is not an official event on the PGA Tour. Woods can still earn world ranking points.
After Malaysia, Woods will duel with Rory McIlroy in China on Monday before finishing his season in the exhibition World Challenge next month.
He said he had been improving with his driver, but still needed to work on that and other parts of his game.
“I’m excited about turning some of my weaknesses into strengths,” he said. “I haven’t driven very well in a very long time, and this year is probably the best I’ve driven in my entire career,” he said. “But my iron game wasn’t as sharp, and neither was my short game.
“Certainly I need to get my iron game back to where it used to be.”