KUALA LUMPUR: Tiger Woods admitted having doubts over whether he could overhaul Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 Major titles and said a new generation, led byRory McIlroy, had complicated his task.
Woods, speaking in Malaysia ahead of this week’s CIMB Classic, said his confidence about reaching the magical 19 had “absolutely” wavered after going four years without a Major win since the 2008 US Open.
“It’s like everybody else. I’ve gone through periods where I didn’t hit very good, didn’t chip very good, didn’t putt very good,” he said. “I know what I can do, but sometimes it just doesn’t come out.
“That’s when, for me, in the past and will always continue to be that way, I’ve just got to go back and work harder.
“Get out there and do my work on the range, do my work on the golf course at home and make that solid so when I get into a tournament situation, it is able to come out.”
Woods’ four-year Major drought follows a sex scandal that broke in 2009, prompting him to take a break from golf, followed by injury and a fresh attempt to remodel his game.
Three titles this season — breaking a two-and-a-half year barren streak — indicate the 36-year-old is getting back to form, but world number one McIlroy, 23, has now emerged as golf’s stand-out performer.
“For a number of years I’ve been the youngest one. Throughout my years it’s been Phil (Mickelson), Vijay (Singh), Ernie (Els), (David) Duval, Paddy (Harrington),” Woods said.
“All these guys won Major championships or were number one in the world or won a bucket-load of tournaments all around the world, but they’re all older than me. I was the youngest of all of those parties.
“Rory is younger, so this is the next generation of guys… Rory is the head of the class of that by far. He’s had an amazing start to his career, winning two Major championships and winning tournaments all around the world.”
Woods said it was “good fun” to compete against the new players, but added that golf’s strength in depth, aided by equipment and training changes, had made tournaments far more competitive.
“Look at how many guys won Major championships for their very first time. The game has gotten so much deeper in that regard,” he said.
“So I think it’s more difficult now to win golf tournaments in general because the equipment has nullified and brought the fields closer together.
“These big-hitting drivers, and the balls don’t curve as much. Guys that were one of the better ball-strikers don’t have the same advantages as they used to.
“Cuts used to be between the leader and the cut number was generally 12, 13, even sometimes 14 shots. Now we have 70-plus guys that are generally (within) 10 shots. So that has shrunk down considerably.”
He added: “So I think overall the competition has gotten better, and certainly I have to continue working to try to become better myself because everyone else is.”
However, the divorced father-of-two insisted that while Nicklaus’s 18 Majors, and Sam Snead’s record of 82 tournament wins — Woods is currently on 74 — were important, there were bigger things in his life.
“I certainly want to break Jack’s record and catch Snead’s record. Those are all things that I would love to do throughout my career,” Woods said.
“But being the best father I can possibly be to my two great kids, that certainly is number one in my life.”