NORTON – Tiger Woods says the secret to recapturing the dominating form that made him a 14-time major champion in an era of younger rivals is to keep putting himself in contention.
The 42-year-old American tees off in Friday's opening round of the US PGA Dell Technologies Championship, the second event of the tour's season-ending playoffs, seeking his first victory in more than five years.
Woods, whose 79 career PGA titles are three shy of Sam Snead's all-time record, has not competed at TPC Boston since 2013, where his best finish was a runner-up effort behind Phil Mickelson in 2007.
Asked what he needed to do to reclaim the intimidating aura he once owned against a new generation of rivals, Woods said he has to put himself in the title hunt as he did in finishing second to Brooks Koepka at the PGA Championship earlier this month.
“The thing is for me is to just keep getting there in the mix and keep getting there on that back nine late on a Sunday with a chance to win,” Woods said.
“It's just a matter of giving myself a lot of opportunities and in order to win you have to be there. I've been there enough this year and clearly learned a lot from it.”
In 15 events this season, Woods has also shared second at the Valspar Championship and fifth at Bay Hill in March and briefly led on Sunday at the British Open before sharing sixth.
It's not a bad comeback season for a star who underwent spinal fusion surgery last year and wondered if he might ever play again.
“This has been one of my best years, considering that I didn't know what I was going to do,” Woods said. “I just didn't have a clue.
“And the fact that I've been able to make it this far is very exciting to me. I have a bright future ahead of me because at this point last year that wasn't the case, didn't know. But now I know that I sort of have a bright future.”
Woods could learn something more about his immediate future on Tuesday, when US Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk announces three of his four picks to fill out the player roster for the American squad that defends the trophy against Europe next month in France.
Woods, already set to visit France as an assistant captain, is expected to be awarded one of the coveted spots with US left-hander Phil Mickelson and 24-year-old Bryson DeChambeau, last week's winner in New Jersey in the playoff opener, among those thought to be on Furyk's short list as well.
Tiger likes DeChambeau pairing.
Having praised DeChambeau when both were in the hunt to qualify on points, Woods said Thursday he would enjoy playing alongside him in France.
“I don't remember the first time I met him, but we've played a number of practice rounds this year and talked to him at the Ryder Cup back in '16 at Hazeltine,” said Woods said.
“He and I playing together would be fantastic. He is competitive. He's fiery. He has got all the things you would want when you play a team match.”
They have very different approaches to golf, Woods going by feel and DeChambeau looking deeply at statistics and numbers.
“We think about the game completely differently,” Woods said. ”I'm very much a feel oriented guy and he's very much a numbers guy. But for some reason we get along great and we work. I understand what he's saying. And that's been fun.”
Woods will play the opening two rounds amongside Australian Marc Leishman, the sixth time this year they will be out in the same group.
“We'll run out of stuff to talk about pretty soon,” Leishman tweeted.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)