Norton, Mass. -- Tiger Woods knows a thing or two about plummeting from the pinnacle of his game, and the trials and tribulations involved with recapturing his former glory. So when the ex-No. 1 in men’s golf says the world’s top-ranked woman golfer will rebound from her current doldrums, he’s probably onto something.
“We're all going to go through those lulls. You play this game long enough, it's going to happen,” Woods told SB Nation on Thursday following a practice round at TPC Boston, site of this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship. “She's just way too talented, and I'm sure she's going to win so many more major championships and tournaments.”
The two golf superstars met for the first time on Wednesday as participants in the fifth annual Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge, a charity golf outing hosted by Woods’ college roommate and long-time friend. (The Woods/Begay-led “West” team defeated Tseng and her East team partners compatriots in the partner event).
Tseng’s current woes -- which include three missed cuts in her last six starts -- stem from far different factors than those that sent Woods’ on- and off-course life into a tailspin. But Tiger’s words of encouragement sounded similar to those uttered by many of his peers before he captured his first official tour title, the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, after a 923-day drought that dated back to September 2009.
Tseng, for her part, has acknowledged battling self-confidence problems this season after dominating all of golf in 2011 to the tune of seven LPGA wins, including two major championship titles. The second grand slam event, the Women’s British Open, launched her into the history books as the youngest golfer ever to capture five majors -- a feat that even a 14-time major winner had to admire.
“[Tseng has] won five major championships -- earlier than anybody in golf history -- so hats off to her,” Woods said. “She'll be back.”
Another “youngest ever” golfer making recent headlines on the LPGA captured Woods attention as well.
“How about that, huh?” he said about Lydia Ko’s win last week at the Canadian Women’s Open. Eleven months after then-16-year-old Lexi Thompson became the youngest player to win an LPGA event, Ko, 15, played her way into the annals of golf with a three-shot win over Inbee Park at the Vancouver Golf Club.
Even Woods, who displayed his nascent championship form on television at the age of two, was impressed by the young New Zealander’s abilities
“I had heard of her before a couple years ago, and it was hard to believe that a 13-year-old could be that good. But she was, and now she's fully matured at 15,” he said laughingly, “and understands how to play now.
“It's cool to see these kids with that much talent and what they can do now at such a young age,” Woods said, adding that Ko did not remind him of himself at that age.
“I wasn't like that at 15, no,” he said.
As for his own game, Woods said he may not be as long off the tee as he used to be, but he considered a three-win season, so far, to be a pretty solid effort.
“It feels good to at least have played well enough this year to basically secure a spot all the way through to East Lake,” said Woods, who followed his practice round with a long session on the range under the watchful eye of swing coach Sean Foley.
“You can't really look at it as real bad going on this year,” he continued. “At the time, most of the year, I was leading the money list, I was No. 1 in FedEx Cup points, and I won three times, so it's not like it's been that bad. It's just a couple rounds here and there, or it's an up‑and‑down here and there, or it's making one putt...so that's a good thing.”
Woods’ back, which had hindered his play at The Barclays last week, was fine as well.
“The back is good. The back is good,” he said. “It was nice to have the treatment [at Bethpage Black] on the weekend and then have Monday off. It's nice this tournament starts a little bit later, so I've got an extra day to kind of get some more treatment at home. I went to Notah's event yesterday, felt great, hit it really well, and had no issues at all.”