- Jason Sobel, Senior Golf Writer
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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Tiger Woods, coming off just his sixth missed cut in 241 professional starts on the PGA Tour, shrugged off those questioning the state of his game Tuesday in advance of this week's Players Championship.
"Well, it's getting better, no doubt. It couldn't get any worse," said Woods, who posted rounds of 74-79 at the Quail Hollow Championship. "It's just one of those things where just a little bit of work, tighten things up a little bit and get refocused for this event."
In his previous four appearances following a missed cut, dating back to 2005, Woods has finished third or better each time, including a win at last year's Buick Open after failing to reach the weekend at the Open Championship.
"I've had moments where I didn't hit the ball very good coming in, and you've got to turn it around," he said. "That's the whole idea of practicing and really working on being focused on what I'm doing and being committed to what I'm doing. I know what the fix is and I've proven it to myself, and it's just a matter of going out there and executing it consistently over 72 holes."
Woods discussed how his preparation for tournament play has been affected more following a layoff which included publicly acknowledging extramarital affairs and a stint in rehab than in previous returns from his father Earl's death four years ago and a knee injury last season.
"Well, it's certainly different," he said. "You know, certainly didn't have the distractions last time getting ready for events. You know, helicopters don't normally fly over you on the range and kind of hover and film you. That wasn't the case then, but that's the case now."
Asked whether his errors at Quail Hollow were more mental or physical, he answered, "All of the above. Didn't hit the ball very good, didn't think myself around the golf course very well and didn't putt well, didn't chip well."
Despite rumors that Woods was on the verge of severing ties with longtime instructor Hank Haney, he maintained the two are still working together. He contends that his current swing thoughts remain unchanged from those he and Haney have worked on for years.
"[I'm] just trying to get my posture, my takeaway a little bit more organized," he said. "Certainly trying to make sure I get enough width in the swing. As we all know, I tend to get a little bit narrow at times, and making sure that that gets organized again so I can get the ball up."
Woods also discussed how the mental aspect of the game has affected his performance.
"It's just a matter of, for me, getting my mind where it needs to be," he said. "Certainly I've made a lot of adjustments in my life, and I've gone through a lot. A lot.
"I remember the hard part when my father passed [in 2006] is I really struggled with practicing. That's when I mourned the most because that's when my dad taught me all the basics, the fundamentals, and I really had a hard time practicing and working on my game initially, and my performance showed it at Winged Foot. This time around, practicing has been a place where I can get out there and enjoy it again and get out there and work.
"I've always loved to practice. I'd much rather practice than play, any day. That's always been my entire life. That hasn't changed, and it feels good to get out there and be able to practice all day."
For just the second time in the past decade, Woods can fall from the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking this week.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson, coming off a solo second-place finish last week, will leapfrog Woods if he wins the Players and Woods finishes outside the top five.
"I've had it happen before -- Double-D [David Duval in 1999] and Vijay [Singh in 2004]," he recalled. "The whole idea to be No. 1 and to continue being No. 1, you have to win golf tournaments. And I haven't done that in a while."
Woods also addressed a claim that the clubs from his "Tiger Slam" seasons of 2000-01 -- when he held all four major championship titles at the same time -- are currently up for auction on the eBay website.
"He may have my set of irons, but they're not from those tournaments. They're in my garage," he explained. "I don't know where they're from, but the sets that I won all four major championships with, they're in my house."
Jason Sobel covers golf for ESPN.com.
2dMicah Adams, ESPN Stats & Information