Tiger Woods faces his first full year without a victory if he doesn’t defend this title this week in the Australian Masters. Whatever happens, he has no doubt his game is going in the right direction.
“If it happens, it happens,” Woods said Wednesday after seeing Victoria Golf Club for the first time. “I’m going to give it my best. But that doesn’t change my commitment to getting better.”
He won last year at Kingston Heath to wrap a week like no other in Melbourne, which featured record crowds that topped 100,000 over four rounds. It was his 82nd career victory, and he was No. 1 in the world with no argument.
Just over a week later, however, Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant and revelations began to unfold about his extramarital affairs, which shattered his image and rocked his world on and off the golf course.
Woods is not looking at his return Down Under as a chance to come full circle. It was in Australia when a supermarket tabloid first linked him to a New York nightclub hostess. And it was in Australia where he last looked like such a daunting figure in the sport.
“I’m here to defend a title,” Woods said. “I’m playing a great golf course and a great field. That’s the way I look at.”
Asked if he had mixed emotions, Woods shook his head.
“I wanted to come back,” he said. “I love it down here.”
Woods is part of a field that includes Geoff Ogilvy, who has been a member of Victoria since he was a teenager and has played this sandbelt course more than any other in the world. Also playing are Sergio Garcia, Camilo Villegas, Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby.
Woods lost his No. 1 ranking two weeks ago to Lee Westwood, who widened the gap with a runner-up finish in Shanghai. He figures the only way to get it back is to do what Woods did to get there -- win tournaments.
He hasn’t come particularly close all year, only twice being in contention in the final round this year.
Woods did not say how far along he was in his swing change, only that he is starting to put together streaks of four or five holes, and even a couple of rounds during a tournament.
Woods has been working with Sean Foley since the PGA Championship in August, and he revealed Wednesday that he wasn’t sure he wanted to change his swing. He already had gone through two swing overhauls with Butch Harmon and one with Hank Haney.
Foley first spoke to Woods at Whistling Straits, and Woods said he didn’t commit to changing until a week later.
“I was waffling,” he said. “Every night I was like, ‘Should I do this?’ One more week at home is when I made the commitment.”
Now he’s trying to figure out how much longer before he changes on the golf course.