/ 21 February 2009

Tiger Woods confident of winning return

Tiger Woods says he is confident of defending his title at next week’s Accenture Match Play Championship after an eight-month layoff following reconstructive knee surgery.

”Nothing changes from every time I enter, it’s to win,” Woods said on Friday. ”So that’s my intent, to go in there and win.” The 14-time major winner announced Thursday that he would return to the Tour for the Accenture Match Play which begins Wednesday in Tucson, Arizona.

He said he cherished his time at home during the layoff with his family but now he is ready to get back to work.

”I’m really looking forward to getting back,” Woods said. ”Getting out there and competing again. It’s been a long time.

”Everything’s been great here on the home front. [New son] Charlie’s doing fantastic. [Wife] Elin’s recovering, and everything couldn’t be any better than it is at home. So now’s the time for me to start playing again.”

The tournament will be Woods’ first since an epic US Open victory last June in San Diego.

Eight days after his triumph Woods underwent season-ending surgery to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Woods also had stress fractures in his left tibia, injuries that affected him during his gritty US Open win, in which he needed 91 holes to defeat Rocco Mediate.

The timing of Woods’ return was affected by several factors and not just the rehab on his knee — his wife Elin Nordegren gave birth to their second child Charlie Axel on February 8.

”They [Sam and Charlie] look a lot alike, there’s no doubt,” Woods said. ”The only difference is Charlie’s sleeping a lot better than Sam did, which is really nice.”

Woods chose the name Charlie because it has a good ring to it.

”We kind of like Charlie, and he just kind of fit that when he came out.

”We had a couple of names. Then as far as the Axel, that’s [Elin’s] brother’s name, so wanted to make sure it stayed in the family.”

Woods said he could have waited a few weeks and come back at World Golf Championship-CA Championship at Doral in Florida but trusts the
way he is playing now.

”Well, it was going to be one of two tournaments,” he said.

”As I started practising and getting ready in late December that was kind of my timetable was to be back for one of those two events.

”And with Charlie coming on time. I felt that this was the time to get back and play again.”

Woods is scheduled to face Brendan Jones in the opening round on Wednesday unless someone withdraws from the event.

The American star stressed the importance of getting off to a fast start in the match play.

”I am as curious as [everyone else],” Woods said.

”Getting out there and competing again and feeling the adrenaline and feeling the rush of competing and playing again. I haven’t done that in a while.

”Hopefully, I can get into the flow of the round very quickly. It helps that it is match play, and that each hole is basically an individual match. So it pays to get off to a quick start.”

Woods said his knee feels much better but people might notice subtle changes in his swing.

”I’ve been trying to make changes in my golf swing,” he said. ”One of the great things about coming back was with the ACL, my bones aren’t moving anymore.

”It is comforting feeling to hit a ball and not have your bones slide all over the place. It caused a lot of pain.”
Woods trails only Jack Nicklaus (18) with his 14 major victories. He is also third overall on the PGA Tour win list with 65 victories. Only Sam Snead (82) and Nicklaus (73) have more.

Woods won four times in his six starts on the Tour in 2008 and placed second in The Masters. He also won the PGA European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic. – AFP