TIGER Woods has declared he plans to play a full schedule in 2017 as he sets his sights on Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major record.
After a third round 70 at the Hero World Challenge io the Bahamas ,the former World Number One said he was fully healthy and ready to play again.
Woods’ 2-under Saturday took him to 8-under for the week, 11 behind runaway leader Hideki Matsuyama who is seven ahead of nearest pursuer Dustin Johnson.
But all eyes this week are on Woods, the man who dominated the game for close to 20 years before injuries and off course turmoil in his personal life derailed his career.
And all indications so far this week are that Tiger believes he is back
TIGER'S ROUND THREE HIGHLIGHTS:
“I wouldn’t be here doing it if I did not think I could play at the highest level (and win more majors),” Woods said after his round.
“I have plenty of pride and I know if I can’t prepare to play at this level, then I won’t do it. But I know that I can.
“Each and every day this week I’ve gotten better,” Woods said of his first event after a 466-day lay-off after multiple back operations.
Woods, who turns 41 on December 30, will have to join an elite list of players to have won multiple major championships aged 41 or more if he is to overhaul Nicklaus’ long standing mark.
They include Old Tom Morris, Mark O’Meara, Harry Vardon and Julius Boros. Nicklaus won his last major at Augusta in 1986, aged 46.
Woods said the key to winning majors again was “doing it slightly differently.”
“My first five or six years on the Tour, I ran 30 miles a week. That was the norm. There’s no way I can do that now,” he said.
Woods said the game has changed a lot since his first year on Tour when John Daly was the only player to consistently drive the ball more than 300 yards.
“I was the second longest at 296,” he said. “Now halfway through the year there were over 50 guys who were out there more than 300 yards.
“It’s just a different game.”
Against that, he said, there are still “so many guys out there like Jim Furyk who can shoot 58 because they are able to move the golf ball and think their way around the golf course.
“The game of golf is about limiting your mistakes. How bad is your bad? Everyone’s good if they play good. It is a difficult chess match,” he said.
“Over the course of my career I’ve been able to do that well (limit the damage caused by bad shots). I’m just going to have to do it a little differently now.
“The physical test that a bunker is 300 yards which I could carry, that’s not the way it is.
“(These days) I have to go around it. It’s just a different type of mentality.”
Woods stressed the biggest difference in this comeback was how quickly he has found “the flow of the round” each day.
“It’s finding some positiveness early on in my round,” he said.
“The first three days I’ve got off to a great start (he birdied the first three holes Saturday). But overall I am just so happy to be out there.
“It’ been a tough road to come back here and get to this point. I have missed it.”
Woods said he did not feel any pressure surrounding the expectations of what he might do this week.
“One thing I’ve been good at over the years is eliminating the noise, trying to keep it at bay for as long as I can,” he said.
“Coming back for this one, there was a lot (of noise), and I had to stay focussed on what I needed to do.
“I’ve hosted events over last 15 months I’ve been away, other golf tournaments that our foundation runs, but I’ve missed being out here.”
THE WEEK IN GOLF CHATS TO RISING AUSTRALIAN STAR CAM SMITH: