Tiger Woods may have sparked a panic among his followers and a slew of critiques from the punditry, but the world No. 1 reiterated that everything was in working order as he prepared to launch his pre-Augusta tune-up.
Woods, who missed his first-ever 54-hole cut at Torrey Pines and finished T41 in Dubai -- on venues where he had compiled 10 total victories -- is on a break until the end of the month, when he’ll start in three games leading up to the Masters in April. The 79-time PGA Tour winner conceded recently to ESPN.com’s Bob Harig that it was not the kickoff he had envisioned, but that getting ready for Augusta was really all that mattered.
That, and ensuring he did not card a DFL.
"Once the Florida Swing starts, we're all just building toward that one week in April,'' Woods told Harig. "We're all about building toward that. Don't finish dead last. And if you win, great."
Woods said he shook off some rust after a long offseason that involved, among other things, a fitness regime that some observers claimed left him too buff for his own good. After carding birdies on the final three holes at Emirates Golf Club and lighting up the course in a meaningless, 18-hole exhibition match in India, Woods said he had his golf feet under him in time to make a run at his fifth green jacket.
"I took a lot of time off this winter to get ready for the season because it's going to be a long grind," said Woods, who expressed the same confidence in his abilities after his tank job at Torrey. "It's not the way I'm used to starting, but also I didn't have the practice time I'm used to. I knew eventually it would kick in. Unfortunately it took me six rounds before it kicked in."
Pronouncing himself pleased with his work down the stretch in Dubai and in India, Woods did concede that putting it all together "just took a little longer than I would like.''
All well and good, but it will take more than words to convince those who make a living out of examining the entrails of every move Woods makes. Hank Haney, who resigned as Tiger’s swing coach in 2010, blasted his former student’s workout approach after Woods’ woeful performance at the Farmers Insurance Open. Tiger nag Brandel Chamblee likened Woods' Sean Foley-revamped swing to that of "a 55-year-old man."
Analyst Ewen Murray, who picked Woods to win at Augusta, said during Sky Sports Dubai broadcast that he believed "this is the worst I have ever seen Woods technically."
@alanharty TW, because we will see a different player at Augusta and romain Wattel of France— Ewen Murray (@ewenmurray77) February 4, 2014
Murray also opined via Twitter, before Ian Baker-Finch jumped into the fray, that Tiger should take Nike’s slogan to heart.
@steviewaldron yes he's that good Stevie, just needs to play without science. Do what he was born to do.— Ewen Murray (@ewenmurray77) February 5, 2014
Baker-Finch weighed in earlier this week, suggesting that Woods might want to follow Lee Westwood’s lead regarding Foley and strike out on his own.
"I think [Woods] needs to go away and play golf every day for a month by himself and figure it out, because it's obviously not working, whatever he's trying to do,'' the CBS Sports analyst and 1991 British open champion told Reuters. "He doesn't look in sync to me. His swing and his body aren't matching up.''
For Woods, the ugly launch to his 2014 season was simply part of the process.
"Just have to build -- keep building day by day," Woods said. "There were obviously a couple of days where I did not play well. I just didn't have it. I fought through it. Didn't give up. Kept fighting and eventually turned around. Unfortunately it took a little longer to get my feels back.''
Things "will click" for him, Woods said, sometime during his three-event tour of the Sunshine State, starting with the Honda Classic on February 27 Honda, followed by title defenses at Donald Trump’s revamped Doral and Bay Hill.