PONTE VEDRA BEACH, May 11, 2011 (AFP) – Tiger Woods, coming back this week at the Players Championship after a knee injury, said Tuesday that his ongoing 18-month victory drought has lasted longer than he expected. Woods practiced over the front nine at the TPC Sawgrass layout and will tee off for his first competitive round since last month’s Masters on Thursday morning at 8:08 alongside Germany’s Martin Kaymer and American Matt Kuchar.
World No. 8 Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the all-time record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, has not won since his infamous sex scandal was revealed in November of 2009.
“There were some down times,” Woods said. “This one has lasted longer than I would have expected. But you keep on playing, keep working hard and get through it.”
Woods suffered a setback in that cause when he suffered a a sprained left knee ligament and strained left Achilles tendon while playing at the Masters last month. He shared fourth for the second year in a row, matching his best showing since the sex scandal erupted.
“I had to power through and we had to shut it down for a little bit and take care of it,” Woods said. “Nothing major. Hopefully it won’t (swell this week) but if it does that’s why I have ice and soft tissue work.”
Woods, who withdrew from last year’s Players Championship with a neck injury, has not won the Players title since 2001 but wanted to play the event after missing last week’s tournament at Charlotte, a course he enjoys.
“I need some playing time. I really want to get out there and compete,” said Woods, who decided to play only after seeing how his knee progressed after treatment.
“The strength of it, the swelling and pain,” Woods said. “I had a slight injury, take some time off, listen to the docs and do the proper rehab. We’ll see how this week progresses. If it flares up, it flares up. Hopefully it doesn’t.”
Woods has his next chance to end the longest major title drought of his career at next month’s US Open at Congressional Country Club near Washington, a course where he won in 2009 at a PGA event in which he served as host.
Woods said the gap between winning his first major crown at the 1997 Masters and his next two years later at the PGA Championship helps him cope with his current struggles as he works to change his swing, something he did then as well.
“If I had never gone through ’97 to ’99, then this period would have been just brutal,” Woods said.
Woods, who stands 69th on the US PGA money list, has slid from the world number one ranking he held last October.
US standout Bubba Watson had said Woods appeared to be “going in the wrong direction” and said Tuesday that while he had been welcomed by members of Woods’ entourage, he had yet to hear from “the boss”.
Woods said of Watson’s analysis, “That was interesting”, and added, “We’ll talk.”
On the eve of the funeral of Seve Ballesteros, Woods voiced his admiration for the Spanish golf legend and five-time major winner who died on Saturday at age 54 due to complications related to brain tumors.
“Just the way he played, it was fun to watch,” Woods said. “He didn’t drive it all that straight but when he did he was virtually unbeatable.
“The way he played, chipping in and holing out from everywhere, I would have loved to have played in that time, just to see that and compete against him.
“It was artful.”