x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Abu Dhabi is the start of something for Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods is hoping a return to Abu Dhabi to start his 2013 campaign will result in success just as 2012 did.

Tiger Woods was happy with how his 2012 season worked out so he plans to start 2013 the same way by playing in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Tiger Woods was happy with how his 2012 season worked out so he plans to start 2013 the same way by playing in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

For Tiger Woods,beginning his 2012 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship provided the perfect preparation to a year where he finally returned to the winner's circle.

It should therefore not surprise that next week the 14-time major champion finds himself back at the National Course for a second successive January, although perhaps an improvement on his tied-third finish features high on a list of New Year's resolutions.

"I wouldn't be entering the 2013 event if I didn't believe opening my season there worked well for me," said Woods in an email interview with The National. "I had a pretty good season and while I obviously would have liked to have won a major, I won three times, gave myself numerous chances and feel confident my game is moving in the right direction." When, 12 months ago, Woods arrived for the first time in Abu Dhabi, he had not recorded a victory of note in 28 months.

Doubts surrounded both his physical and mental shape, yet the American offered glimpses of his best to challenge Robert Rock, the eventual winner, in Sunday's last pairing.

Woods may not have added the Falcon Trophy to his collection of Green Jackets and Claret Jugs, but for the belief it provided, the experience in the emirate will no doubt be filed under "capital gains".

The former world No 1 departed the UAE with fresh impetus, and weeks later finished runner-up at the Honda Classic, then at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March ended his extended title drought with a once-typical Sunday sparkle.

Quick-fire victories either side of the US Open further strengthened suggestions Tiger again rightfully represented a major threat.

As he alluded to days before his Abu Dhabi debut, Woods, whose troublesome left knee has been reconstructed as much as his swing, attributes his relative renaissance to an improved fitness.

"I'm excited about where I am physically. For most of last year I was able to practice instead of rehab and to play as many events as I wanted to," he said.

"I played a full schedule for the first time in a long time and overall I was really pleased with my game. I'm excited to start off strong in the New Year."

Woods will once more face a stellar field in Abu Dhabi, with Rory McIlroy - world No 1 and second here last year - leading a cast that includes Justin Rose and Jason Dufner, two players situated inside the rankings' top 10.

And then there is Rock, of course, the Englishman of little renown until he bettered by two shots Woods's final round and came home top of the leaderboard.

"Robert really played great golf, but obviously Sunday was extremely impressive when he was under pressure," Woods said. "He was solid, consistent and did what he had to do.

"I gave myself a chance to win the tournament, but on Sunday was a little off on the tee. I putted well, but I just didn't make enough to win.

"I like the course, loved the fans and the welcome from the TCA [Abu Dhabi] and HSBC, and I'm really looking forward to opening my season there."

 

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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