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Bullish Tiger Woods has no intention of becoming a ceremonial golfer | Ewan Murray

Golf would relish a Tiger Woods renaissance, which the 14-times major champion, against all odds, reckons is still plausible

Much has changed in Tiger Woods since his years of dominance were ended by drama and injury but his mindset is one thing that remains. In Dubai on Wednesday, as he prepared for the rarity of a second tournament in as many weeks, he insisted he has no intention of becoming a ceremonial golfer.

The 14-times major champion is also not of a mind for quiet reflection. I try not to go down that path because I like to consider myself a player and a guy that is playing out here and competing, he said. I know Ive been away from it for a long period but that just got me thinking about other business opportunities. So as far as the golfing side of it, I know Ive accomplished some pretty neat things over the course of my career and I hope I can continue.

Woods will begin the Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday ranked 666th in the world. Making the cut would be progress. No, replied Woods when asked if his tournament aims have receded. Because if Im teeing it up, the goal is to win it and that doesnt change. Whether Im injured, coming off an injury or Im playing well, or Im playing poorly, if Im in the event, its to win.

His bullish stance is understandable, but more intriguing was Woods responseto whether he would remain on tour if he was only ever likely to finish in the top 20 rather than win.

Its about preparation, he said. If I cant prepare to win a tournament, I feel ill-prepared to hit the shots and handle the shots down the stretch and Im not able to pull them off at home, theres no reason why I should expect to be able to pull them off out here.

Thats why I take practising so seriously at home. And Ive always said that over the years; that I would much rather practise than play because I like to have all those shots. So when I come out here, its not a surprise. Ive pulled off all the shots. The interpretation was: when that warm-up flexibility stops, so does Woodss career.

Woods improved on the back nine of the Desert Classics pro-am, his driving previously wayward. He did at least have lack of sleep as an extenuating circumstance. My mother called me about two in the morning, woke me up, and asked me how I was doing, Woods said. I said: Mom, you realise theres a nine-hour time difference?

The Woods circus here has been quite a sight at his second tournament since returning to the PGA Tour after an absence of 17 months. For all he may be clambering back towards competitive relevance, his status remains higher than any other golfer. Even players have sought autographs and Englands Matthew Southgate took to Facebook to post an open letter towards the hero he met at the 2002 Open Championship. Fifteen years later here I am, sat in the Grand Millennium Hotel in Dubai in preparation for that special chance us golfers all dream of the week I get to go toe to toe with the Tiger, he wrote.

Tiger
Tiger Woods plays his second shot on the eighth hole during the pro-am at the Dubai Desert Classic. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

How does Woods respond to such adulation? It just means youve been around a long time. Thats all it means. Ive been out here actually just a little over half my life, so when you put it in terms like that, its kind of easy to see why players who are on the younger side, that some were born after I won the [1997] Masters, they are out here. Its just a changing of the guard.

Thomas Bjorn famously conquered Woods in Dubai in 2001 when the American was at the peak of his powers. Europes Ryder Cup captain offered extra insight into the Woods mindset while others swooned. Tiger will very much understand you only get in that position if youve done something extraordinary, he said. As much as he is determined to get his career back on track, he will also understand what he is to a lot of people.

He will understand all of that; which Jack Nicklaus has been, what Arnold Palmer was, what Seve Ballesteros was. I think he would find it worse if he came out here and nobody cared. That would be a bit more like: Whats happened in the couple of years Ive been gone? I think he really appreciates it.

Golf would relish a Woods renaissance, which he, against all odds, reckons plausible. Ive had lean years where I didnt win, he said. I think I have 10 years where I won five or more tournaments but there have also been years where I didnt win a thing and I struggled. I was changing my game and I did not play well.

Jason Day said something pretty funny. We were walking in the scoring tent last Friday [at Torrey Pines] and he says: You know, it doesnt really matter when you win your four tournaments, whether its the beginning of the year or the end of the year. I know we both missed the cut but you win four at the end of the year? People think youve had a hell of a year.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/feb/01/tiger-woods-winning-dubai-desert-storm

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