SAN DIEGO (AFP) – Tiger Woods said he is not thinking about breaking the record for PGA Tour victories as he prepares to tee off his 2020 campaign at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines today.
The 44-year-old former world number one drew level with Sam Snead’s long-time mark of 82 wins with victory at the Zozo Championship last October, and could set a new record this week at a course where he was won eight times before.
But a relaxed-looking Woods, who finished 2019 on a high after leading the United States (US) to victory in the Presidents Cup in Melbourne, said on Tuesday pulling clear of Snead is the last thing on his mind at Torrey Pines this week.
“That number, just trying to get to 83, I really don’t think about it,” Woods told a press conference.
“Because I still have to think about all the things I need to do to win the golf tournament. There’s so many different shots I have to play. Strategy, thinking my way around the golf course. I’m more consumed in that.”
Woods is similarly unmoved by the possibility of matching or bettering Jack Nicklaus’s haul of 18 Majors.
Woods improved his tally to 15 last year with a sensational victory at the Masters in Augusta.
“Even to get to the number I’m at right now, 15, is a lot,” Woods said.
“Not too many guys who are around have seen that kind of number before. It’s just going to take time. It took Jack about 26 years to get to his number, it’s taken me 20-odd years to get to my mine.
“It just takes time to accumulate wins. There were a number of years where I didn’t play so there were some missed opportunities. But I’m playing again now so these are blessed opportunities and I didn’t think I’d have these.”
Woods, who spent nearly two years out of the game between 2016 and 2017 as he battled a longstanding back injury, said that his biggest challenge was maintaining consistency over four rounds of a tournament.
“When I was younger I had more good days than bad, feeling-wise,” Woods said.
“Now I’m 44 I feel more bad days than good days. I think all of you who are my age or older can relate to that.
“That’s the hardest part about being an older athlete. You see it all the time at the Masters, every single year.
“Either Fred (Couples), (Bernhard) Langer or someone is up there for two days and then they fade. It’s hard to put it together for all four days.
“That’s one of the things I’ve noticed – it’s harder to do. But I’ve been able to win a few tournaments since I made my comeback and hopefully I can win a few more.”
Woods said the legacy of his back problems continued to affect his preparations for each tournament. Spinal fusion surgery in 2017 has left him needing to undergo lengthy stretching every time he picks up a club.
“If you and I wanted to go and hit balls right now, I couldn’t go right to the first tee,” Woods said.
“I couldn’t play a big golf shot, I’d have to only chip it 100 yards. It’s hard. I need to get worked on, I need to stretch, I need to get loosened up, and then start the process on the range to get moving.
“I have a fixed point in my lower back that’s not moving. So I have to loosen everything else around it.”
Woods, meanwhile, said he remains realistic about his dream of representing the US in the Olympics this year. To qualify for a place in Tokyo, Woods must be one of the top four ranked American players inside the world top 15 by June 22.
He is currently the fourth ranked American player in the world, sixth overall, with world number one Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas (4), and Dustin Johnson (5) ahead of him.
“I think the US guys are going to have to play well (to qualify),” Woods said. “There’s a lot of us in the top 15. There’s so much golf to be played, a lot of big events, a lot of major championships. There’ll be some pretty good fluctuating over the next six months.”