There was a time, not all that long ago, when winning golf tournaments was to Tiger Woods what breathing is to most people. But years pass, stuff happens, and the outlook of even the second-winningest golfer in history undergoes life-altering transformations.
“Absolutely, yeah,” Woods told reporters Wednesday about whether the fire still burned within to see his name etched into major championship trophies -- or even the ones they hand out to the victors of everyday tournaments. What was different, however, was that the losses did not seem to haunt the 36-year-old former No. 1 the way they used to -- and he has his two children, mostly, to thank for that.
Indeed, the death of his father, a monumental fall from grace, injuries, and parenthood may not have not changed Woods’ desire to be the best, but the elements of his everyday life have caused him to adopt a different outlook about what happens on the golf course.
“Losing a parent and having the birth of two kids put things in better perspective for me,” Woods said prior to Thursday’s start to the BMW Championship, the third of four legs of the FedEx Cup series. “The wins are fantastic, but the losses aren't what they used to be, because I get to talk to my kids at night.
“It puts things in a proper perspective, for sure,” added Woods, who’ll match up in the first two rounds at Crooked Stick with last week’s Deutsche Bank champ and the world’s top golfer, Rory McIlroy.
Woods, who posted four successive rounds in the 60s at TPC Boston -- the first time he's done that since his unofficial Chevron World Challenge success last December -- got the better of his young rival and new bestie when the two went head-to-head at The Barclays two weeks ago. Since then, however, McIlroy surpassed Woods in the overall standings at Bethpage Black (T24-T38), hit pay dirt a week later to join Woods as the only golfer on the PGA Tour with three triumphs this season, and -- with a dominant performance at last month’s PGA Championship for his second major title -- has outpaced him for player of the year honors.
Even with all that, Woods sounded confident about the state of his game under the tutelage of swing coach Sean Foley.
"I've really hit the ball well this entire year, especially this summer on," he said. "It was just a matter of making a few more putts and a couple more up-and-downs here and there. I'm starting to do that now, so that's a good sign.
“The work I've put in with Sean is really coming together. I'm driving the ball probably better than I ever have. I'm hitting it further and I'm hitting it straighter, which is a nice combo. My statistics kind of reflect that. It goes to show you where I was and how bad I was driving it to where I am now and how well I'm driving it."
For sure, Woods enters the third playoff game in dramatically better shape than he was in a year ago, when he was ranked 44th in the world and failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup race. Twelve months later, he’s No. 3 in the world rankings and in FedEx Cup points and part of the marquee threesome (with Rory Mac and Barclays winner Nick Watney) that will tee off at 11:48 a.m. local time on Thursday at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind.
"I didn't play last year,” said Woods. “I wasn't even in the damned thing so it's nice to be here and be able to contend in this thing.”
And while he may not mind losing as much as he did in his youth, Woods still had but one aim in mind for Sunday night.
"I'm just going to try and get a 'W' this week," he said. "That's the goal. That's why I'm here. That's why I entered."