Defeated Woods primed for new year

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IOL pic dec9 tiger woods world challenge

Associated Press

Tiger Woods tosses a leaf into the air to check the wind on the fifth tee during the final round of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge golf tournament at Sherwood Country Club on Sunday. Picture: Mark J. Terrill

Thousand Oaks, Sherwood -

It wasn't the send-off from Sherwood that Tiger Woods wanted, but a playoff loss to Zach Johnson in the World Challenge gave the world number of one plenty of optimism for 2014.

Johnson rallied from four shots back with eight to play on Sunday, forcing a playoff by holing out from a drop area at the 72nd hole and taking the decider with a par as Woods' five-foot par-saving putt lipped out.

It wasn't the defeat that made it an emotional day for Woods, but the knowledge that an event dear to his heart would be changing forever with a move to Florida next year.

“We've raised $25-million in this event alone in the 15 years,” Woods said. Fourteen of those tournaments have been held at Sherwood Country Club in the foothills of the Santa Monica mountains west of Los Angeles.

“Without this event we wouldn't be able to build the learning centre which we did down in Orange County, and over 100 000 kids have gone through our facilities.

“We've had so many success stories. And it is very sad to leave Sherwood, because there's so many great memories, for me personally.

“This was the last time my dad ever got a chance to watch me play live,” he added.

Woods said this week that he hopes the move to Florida will make it easier for players based on the East Coast to accept invitations to the elite, 18-man tournament in the now-crowded December calendar.

And even with changes afoot, this year's edition offered the usual chance to gear up for the coming campaign while looking back on the previous season.

“Pretty darn good year,” Woods said of 2013. “Five wins and on some pretty good venues, so very pleased with the year.”

Those five wins earned him US PGA Tour player of the year honours. But they didn't include a major title. Woods' pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record 18 majors remains stalled on 14.

However, he has won at three of next year's four major championship venues - Augusta, Hoylake and Valhalla - and has a third-place and runner-up finish at US Open host course Pinehurst.

Woods' week included a masterful 10-under par 62 in the second round on Friday. He struggled with his putting on other days, including Sunday, but was happy with a new driver in his bag.

“I thought I drove the ball great this week,” he said. “I found a nice driver this week, and very pleased at the changes that I found in that driver.” - Sapa-AFP


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