Los Angeles – Tiger Woods took a twisting path to three US PGA Tour titles in 2012, but despite ending a two-year victory drought he couldn't quench his thirst for more major titles.
“I know how it feels when you win a major championship, and it feels incredible,” Woods said as he reflected on his year.
“It lasts with you, and that's something that I would like to have happen again.”
Woods hasn't won one of golf's four major championships since his 2008 US Open triumph at Torrey Pines.
His pursuit of Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 majors remains stalled at 14, but Woods believes he has emerged from a tunnel of distractions – his disastrous marital crisis, serious injury and the re-engineering of his swing – and is ready to tackle golf's biggest challenges in 2013.
So, however, is current world number one Rory McIlroy.
“I still feel I have some of my best golf to play, and in order to do that, I had to be healthy, and this year is headed in the right direction,” Woods said. “I'm very excited about next year.
“Rory is ranked number one. He deserves it. He's won tournaments all around the world. He's had high finishes on top of that, and that's how you do it .... He should be very proud of the season he's had, and I'm sure he's excited about what next year holds for him, as well.”
Expectations for Woods's 2012 season were raised when he capped 2011 with a victory in the World Challenge, the 18-man unofficial event he hosts for the benefit of his charitable foundation.
But things looked dark in March, when he abruptly departed the World Golf Championships event at Doral during the final round as inflammation in his achilles tendon flared up.
He quickly quelled speculation that chronic injury might blight the rest of his career, winning his next start at Bay Hill for his first US PGA Tour title in more than two years.
Then came another dry spell – a tie for 40th at the Masters, a missed cut at Quail Hollow and a tie for 40th at The Players championship.
The magic was back at The Memorial, where he chipped in for birdie from dense rough at the 16th hole on Sunday for another tension-packed victory that ratcheted up expectations for the US Open.
It was another major bust – a share of the halfway lead yielding nothing more than a tie for 21st at the Olympic club in San Francisco.
The pattern was repeated at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in August – a share of the halfway lead but not even a top-10 finish.
Sandwiched between was a victory at the AT&T National, where he out-lasted Bo Van Pelt in a back-nine duel to claim his 74th US tour title and surpass Nicklaus for second on the all-time list behind the 82 titles of Sam Snead.
“Actually, my short game has been really good from late summer on,” Woods said. “I was hitting the ball a little better and I was spending more time chipping and putting.”
After the World Challenge Woods had a six-week break scheduled.
“I need it,” Woods said. “It's been a long year and I've played a lot.”
When he does get back to practicing, Woods said, it won't be quite the slog it was when he was working to implement swing changes with coach Sean Foley.
“It's not a laundry list like it was the last couple years,” Woods said. “I've already made the big changes. They're already in. It's the little tweaks here and there.”
And Woods, who turns 37 on December 30, was pleased to be looking forward to a season without any major injury worries.
“I think I needed to get to a point where I was playing a full season and where I was competitive, not where I was missing big chunks of time, which I had been over the past years,” he said.
“There was quite a few people out there that said I would never win again,” he said. “Three wins on the PGA Tour this year, and what I've done, I think, collectively, passing Jack (for career titles), I think that's a pretty good accomplishment.” – Sapa-AFP