GOLF: Tiger Woods out to return to the top, starting in Abu Dhabi
With all the talk now focusing on Rory McIlroy, one could be forgiven for thinking Tiger Woods has put his clubs into storage.
The former world No.1 has so far been overshadowed by man of the moment and new Nike stable mate, McIlroy, in the UAE capital. But although no longer the biggest beast in the golfing jungle the 14-time Major winner reminded everyone that he’s not gone into the wilderness and still has plenty of roar left in him.
“Absolutely,” he said emphatically when asked whether his game is in as good a shape as it’s been for the past few years and whether he is confident of having a successful year.
“I had not played a full schedule in a very long time. So for me  was a big year in that regard; that I was able to play an entire year.
“Consequently, I won a few times, and [I am] really excited about going into this year.” The 37-year-old spoke with conviction and optimism, reminding the packed media conference of the confident young American that took the golf world by storm 16 years ago. It wasn’t so much what he said, more the way in which he said it.
“This off-season, even though it was only six weeks, it was nice to train and to get speed, to get stronger, to get the endurance up, all the different levels
that I know I can get to and I have been at, it was nice to get there again.”
However, both on and off the course life has changed for Woods. On the fairways he’s no longer feared as he once was - the events of Monday night illustrate that as well as anything. But even though he’s without a Major in nearly five years the American’s always talked a good game and now, more than ever in the past three years, that’s still the case.
And having shown glimpses of the Tiger of old last year - the one that would strike the ball as clean as a whistle, make putts mere mortals can only dream of and win big tournaments - the world No.2 has his sights firmly set on returning to the top of the rankings.
“I would like to just win golf tournaments,” Woods said. “I won three times last year and low and behold, look where I’m at. It’s about winning and being consistent. I think that over the course of my career, I’ve done a pretty good job of that, and would certainly like to continue doing that.”
Having made his Abu Dhabi debut 12 months ago, the winner of 38 European Tour events is back to try and make up for his final round fade-out that saw him finish tied-third. Even after a pretty dire 2010 and ‘11 the sight of him leading after 54 holes led many to believe he would go on to claim the Falcon Trophy.
“Last year I had a chance going into the final round, made a few mistakes, but I was there. Hopefully I can do the same this year, but finish a couple spots higher than I did last year.”
And although he genuinely seems to like and respect his new ‘team-mate’, the fact that McIlroy has taken his mantle both as Nike’s main man and the best on the planet, one gets the feeling Tiger is privately intent on letting his clubs do the talking in 2013.