'When my best isn't good enough, I'm walking'

Updated: March 16, 2005, 10:42 AM ET
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- As a three-time champion, Tiger Woods has a lifetime exemption to the Masters. Just don't expect to him to match Arnold Palmer's record of 50 consecutive tournaments.

Tiger Woods

Asked how long he envisioned himself playing Augusta National, Woods replied, "Not as long as people think."

Retirement is harder in golf than any other sport, because players can compete well into their 50s (Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Jay Haas) and the Champions Tour can extend careers even longer.

Palmer, 75, does not plan to play a PGA Tour event this year for the first time since 1953.

"I'll definitely quit the game earlier than people think," Woods said in a recent interview. "The only reason I would play is the occasional tournament if my son is good enough to be out there, and he chooses to play. That would be cool. But my foundation means much more than what I do out here."

That's not to say Woods, who at 29 has been on tour for nine years, is contemplating retirement.

He made it clear there are two records he is chasing -- the 18 professional majors won by Jack Nicklaus, and the 82 career PGA Tour victories by Sam Snead. Woods has eight majors and 42 tour victories.

But how will he know when it's time to quit?

"When my best isn't good enough, I'm walking," Woods said. "You'll know when you're not able to produce any more. I don't lie. When I play well, I tell you guys. And I tell you when I haven't played well. I've won tournaments out there when I wasn't playing my best. But if I play my best and don't win, there's no reason to be out here."

Has he ever played his best and not won?

"No," Woods said flatly.

He offered the same answer when asked if he ever played his best and came close to not winning. Woods said the best he has played was the 1997 Masters, which he won by 12 shots, and the 2000 U.S. Open, which he won by 15.

"And the British Open," he said of 2000 at St. Andrews, where he won by eight. "That was a good week."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press