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Woods in upbeat mood for next year
Mark Lamport-Stokes | November 09, 2004 10:35 IST
Tiger Woods, optimistic as ever, is excited about his prospects for 2005 despite struggling off the tee for most of this year and winning just one title.
The former world number one wasted a golden opportunity to clinch the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta at the weekend, finishing four strokes adrift of winner Retief Goosen after battling to a two-over-par 72.
Although he failed in his bid to claim a first strokeplay title of the season, Woods believes the revamp of his swing is close to bearing fruit.
"The season has been disappointing. I didn't win a major championship but I've made some great strides in my game, which I'm really excited about," said Woods, whose five-year reign as world number one was ended two months ago by Fiji's Vijay Singh.
"I'm putting the pieces together and they're starting to come together. Now I just need to build more consistency and do it week-in and week-out and, on top of that, day in and day out.
"Even though it didn't show much in the final round, over the last two days it did," added Woods, who started the last day at East Lake Golf Club in a tie for the lead after scores of 72, 64 and 65 but hit only five of 14 fairways as he lost ground.
"It was a very successful week as far as progressing in the right direction, but ultimately I'm very disappointed.
"I felt like it was a golden opportunity to win a tournament.
"But my finishes over the past three, four months have been pretty good," said the eight-times major winner, who has produced 10 top-10 finishes in his last 12 starts.
Woods, who has not won a major since the 2002 U.S. Open, travels to South Korea next week for a four-player exhibition involving K.J. Choi, Colin Montgomerie and Pak Se Ri.
He then moves on to Japan to compete at the Dunlop Phoenix.
The fact remains, though, that the 28-year-old American is not the player he was in his pomp during 2000, when he won the last three majors of the year.
He has lost the aura of dominance he once enjoyed over his rivals and has had problems with his driving and the precision of his approach play for more than two years.
Many of his peers feel he should reunite with former swing coach Butch Harmon but Woods, typically dogged in his decision-making, has decided to try his luck with Hank Haney, who also coaches his close friend Mark O'Meara.
"I have always picked people's brains, everyone from Rick Smith and Hank Haney to David Leadbetter," Woods said earlier this year. "That's the only way you can grow.
"Ninety percent of the information I throw out immediately, five percent I try and discard and five percent I retain. I just take little bits and pieces, and sometimes it works."
Whether through Haney, Harmon or someone else, Woods certainly needs something to work.
His swing, at the moment, cannot be relied upon to withstand the pressures coming down the stretch in a big event -- and his closest rivals know this all too well.
Woods, who played last week in his first tournament since his October marriage to Swedish model Elin Nordegren, has not won a strokeplay title since the WGC-American Express Championship at Woodstock, Georgia in October last year.
He has now played in 20 consecutive strokeplay events without success, his longest victory drought since turning professional in 1996.
His only victory this season came at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at Carlsbad, California in February.