American Tiger Woods will make his 2012 PGA Tour debut at Pebble Beach this weekend
The 14-time major winner has not won a Tour event since November 2009
Woods finished third at last week's Abu Dhabi Golf Championship
Despite a disappointing final round, Woods is pleased with his current form
Former world No. 1 Tiger Woods is confident he is returning to top form ahead of his first PGA Tour appearance of 2012 at Pebble Beach this week.
The American clinched 14 majors between 1997 and 2008, but has struggled with injury over the last two years and has not won an officially sanctioned tournament since November 2009.
But Woods has shown signs of improvement in recent months, winning the Chevron World Challenge event he hosts in December and finishing tied for third at last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
The 36-year-old, who has also gone through a high-profile divorce after admitting extramarital affairs, said he is now able to train thoroughly, rather than rehabilitating the leg injuries which have plagued him in recent years.
“Rehabbing and training are two totally different scenarios,” he told reporters ahead of the AT&T Pebble Beach National, which starts Thursday and offers a winner’s purse of $1.152 million.
“I haven’t been able to train. I haven’t been healthy enough. I’m now training and my body is feeling explosive again. Consequently I’m hitting the ball further.”
Woods entered the final round of last week’s European Tour event tied for the lead with eventual winner Robert Rock, but found only two fairways over the last 18 holes and finished two shots behind the Englishman.
Despite missing out on victory, Woods was encouraged by his performance in the Gulf.
“That was my bad day and it wasn’t that bad. I know the stats show I only hit two fairways, but I landed the ball on eight and ran through it,” he said.
“My stats said I hit six greens, but I putted from off the green four times so that’s 10 greens. If I can have that as my bad ball-striking day, we’re looking pretty good.”
Woods has won a total of 71 PGA Tour events since turning pro in 1996 – only the legendary duo of Jack Nicklaus with 73 and the late Sam Snead on 82 have claimed more.
Now ranked 18th after falling outside the top 50 last year, he admits that practicing and preparing for tournaments gets harder the older he gets.
“The more we age, the more time we need to heal,” he said. “I don’t recover quite as well.
“I know that I’m sore quite often, just about every day when I’m playing with my kids. I don’t remember ever being like that. I just have to train smarter, practice smarter.”