Woods still seeking first win of 2010
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- It's the question everyone wants an answer to: When will Tiger Woods win?
The world's No. 1-ranked golfer has claimed victory 71 times in his PGA Tour career, including 14 triumphs at major championships.
In suburban Philadelphia for this week's AT&T National, Woods said he feels his game is coming around, especially after a stretch of golf in which he shot a back-nine 31 in the third round of the U.S. Open nearly two weeks ago.
"I think it was nice to have that happen, but I think it was even more important to have it happen in a major championship, especially when I needed it," Woods said Tuesday of his Round 3 theatrics at Pebble Beach. "To get back into the event, I needed to make a run, and I was able to make that run and give myself a really good chance to win the championship. All I had to do is shoot under par on the final day and I would have won the tournament. That was a nice feeling to have and something I hadn't had this year yet."
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No one should discount Woods' chances this week at Aronimink Golf Club, which has hosted major championships in the past. Woods is the defending champion of the event, but that's a misnomer because the 2009 edition was held at Congressional Country Club outside of Washington, D.C. The tournament will return to the nation's capital in 2012 after a two-year hiatus as Congressional undergoes renovations before hosting the 2011 U.S. Open.
The course setup at Aronimink includes long rough and fast greens, which should play right into Tiger's hands. Just like at Pebble Beach, anyone who has to putt from above the hole on the Donald Ross-designed layout will have a tough time making birdies.
So can Woods come away with that elusive W despite being 0-for-5 in the victory column in his return from his self-imposed exile? Granted, his pair of T-4s at the Masters and U.S. Open was solid, but Woods is held to a different standard.
After he had knee surgery in 2008, Woods' return the next year took just three tournaments to produce a victory -- at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. In his first five starts of 2009, Woods had four top-10s, with the only "blemish" on his record being a T-17 at the WGC-Match Play.
This time around, Woods' foray back into competitive golf includes an MC and a WD in those five starts. But he said he hopes his high finish at Pebble Beach can translate into a strong showing this week at the AT&T National.
"It certainly has carried [over] as far as momentum into my practice sessions because the things that I was working on that I had been working on finally came together at the U.S. Open," Woods said. "So that felt really good."
Speaking of practice sessions, Woods mentioned that he's still not employing a swing coach after parting ways with Hank Haney and that video monitors are the main source of his teaching sessions.
"Video does a lot," Woods said. "If you can get the proper angles, it's pretty simple whether the club is on plane or not. Very simple."
If it's so simple, why has Woods employed a coach for nearly all of his professional career? And why do most other top pros have a swing guru in their corner? Those will have to be questions for another day.
For much of Tuesday's news conference, Woods handed out the standard answers about the conditions of the golf course -- "Phenomenal" -- and the charity efforts of which his foundation is the main benefactor this week despite the fact that he is no longer the official tournament host after the sex scandal came to light.
The one question when we saw a pre-Nov. 29, 2009, Tiger gleam in his eye? It was talking about St. Andrews, the next major championship venue; the British Open will be held there in two weeks.
If Woods were to claim a victory here this week, it would be his first since the Australian Masters on Nov. 15. His last PGA Tour victory? You have to go all the way back to the BMW Championship in September.
Even if he doesn't win outside Philadelphia this weekend, expect Woods to be the heavy favorite when the year's third major is played at the home of golf.
Anyone want to bet against him?
Kevin Maguire is the golf editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Kevin.Maguire@espn.com.
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