Tiger Woods may have resurrected his game and ascended to No. 2 in the world of golf, but Job One for the 14-time major champion is not returning to the top of the rankings but, rather, being a good dad to his two kids.
"There are things that are certainly more important, and fatherhood is No. 1," Woods told reporters Wednesday on the eve of the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. "Golf has always been a high priority in my life, but family has always been No. 1. So that hasn't changed."
One could certainly argue that "family" may not have been Woods’ primary concern during his cocktail waitress and porn star era, but Rory McIlroy’s favorite playing partner has gushed about fatherhood since his then-wife Elin Nordegren delivered Sam Alexis in 2007. Charlie Axel arrived in early 2009 and Woods says that the importance of surpassing Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors or Sam Snead’s all-time wins pales in comparison to raising his five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son.
"For me, I certainly want to break Jack's record and catch Snead's record. Those are all things that I would love to do," Woods said. "But being the best father I can possibly be to my two great kids, that certainly is No. 1 in my life."
Woods, back at Kuala Lumpur’s Mines Resort and Golf Club for the first time since winning the 1999 World Cup, talked about a wide range of subjects, including how he rated his 2012 season as "good" but not great since it lacked a major championship. He also said winning three times this year on the PGA Tour had boosted his confidence level and he was "very, very proud of" his OWGR position.
In addition, Woods, who until last week shared top billing with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong among Nike’s superstar pitchmen, touted golf’s drug-testing procedure as "a positive step" toward ensuring a Tour de France-like doping scandal does not consume the game.
"We just implemented testing, probably three years ago I think it is, three years now. I know we don't do any blood work like some of the other sports do. Right now is just urine samples, but that's certainly a positive step in the right direction to try and validate our sport," Woods said. "This is a sport where we turn ourselves in on mistakes. A ball moves in the tree, and the guy calls a penalty on himself. Golf is a different sport. I think that's one of the neat things about our great game, and I think with the testing, it's only enhanced that respectability throughout all of sport."
Woods, by the way, declined to discuss Armstrong and a host of other subjects during an extremely uncomfortable five-minute interview, ostensibly about Tiger’s Fuse Science endorsement, with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo earlier this week.
"I can’t control any of that," Woods responded to Bartiromo’s decidedly golf reporter-averse questioning (Alex Miceli, notwithstanding) about when sponsors and fans forgave him for his sex scandal. "All I can control is to try to hit a high draw and a hi fade and make some putts."