December 19, 2013

Tiger’s Blog: Looking forward to next year

First, I want to thank everyone who has been involved with our World Challenge event as we celebrated our 15th and last year at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The board and members at Sherwood have been great to us over the years. I also want to thank all of the sponsors, volunteers and amazing fans that came out through the years, whether it was perfect sunshine, rain, cold or wind. I’m grateful to all of you for supporting us because the World Challenge helped build our Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif. It got us the equity we needed to build a tremendous facility that has served more than 100,000 students since 2006.

When we first started the tournament, it was a fun challenge-season event. The small field had a great time, and the event raised funds for my foundation. Now it’s grown into something more serious because of the World Ranking points involved, and we are getting more of the top players to play because of that. I think players are starting to realize that if they play well in the event, they can move up in the World Ranking. It’s a lot easier to do that in an 18-player field than a full field. Look at Zach Johnson. His win this year moved him to No. 9.

Next year, I’m excited to partner with Tavistock to move the World Challenge to Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Fla. I’ve played there hundreds of times and lived there for about 16 years. It’s an awesome golf course, probably one of the toughest in the state. I think moving there is going to be fantastic for many reasons. It’s a great opportunity to grow the tournament and my partnership with Joe Lewis and Tavistock. Also, the international golf calendar has changed a lot over the last few years, and there is more pressure on a player’s schedule. So many top players are based on the East Coast, and that makes a tremendous difference in getting a quality field in December. The format will stay exactly the same: 72 holes of stroke play, and my foundation will continue to operate the event.

I’m really looking forward to next year. I played well at the end of this year, so it’s nice to have some momentum heading into 2014. I thought I was pretty consistent throughout the year, starting off at Torrey Pines and ending on a positive note at Sherwood, where I finished second to Zach. I think my body of work overall for the whole year was pretty good. I also found a new Nike driver, VRS Covert 2.0 Tour, that I’m really excited about. I drove the ball a little further and definitely straighter than I have been all year.

I’m really excited about the major championships next year. I’ve won at three of the four venues — Augusta National, Valhalla Golf Club and Royal Liverpool — and on Pinehurst No. 2 (U.S. Open), I’m trending the right way, having finished third and second. But I still need to practice, work, grind and prepare, and have my game come together those four times a year, and I hope that will happen.

I’m going to put my clubs away for a while to spend more time with my kids and support my girlfriend Lindsey Vonn as she tries to prepare for the Sochi Olympics. Having experienced reconstructive surgery on my knee and the ensuing rehab, and the amount of pain associated with it, it’s really hard to explain to anybody unless you’ve been through it. And then coming back on it athletically, to trust that it’s going to be there, that’s a whole different ballgame. I’ve had my share of experiences in that regard — unfortunately — but I think it helps her in a sense because she can bounce ideas off me about what to expect. It is a frustrating process and really difficult to go through.

We see our sports through the same looking glass in how we approach them. We both work very hard and are prepared for our seasons. And when we’re ready to go, we give it everything we possibly have and there’s no holding back. I think that’s some of our commonalities. But she has to be way more aggressive in her sport than I have to be in mine. You’re trying to make your way down a mountain at 80-plus mph, and you have to have the adrenaline and the aggressiveness to do it. But for me, I’m trying to tone everything down mentally. I’m trying to play within myself and do all the little things. So that part of it is way different. But I think it’s the preparation that we both appreciate and the fact that we can do it time and time again, and we’ve done it for a long period of time. It’s not a flash in the pan, and you just don’t do it for one year — she’s done it for 13 years, and I’ve done it for 18 years. As far as Lindsey competing in Sochi, we’re very hopeful. It all depends on how that knee is.

My newest golf course project, El Cardonal at Diamante Cabo San Lucas, is coming along well. I recently made a visit there and was pleased with the progress. It was great to see grass going down on the front nine and shaping happening on the back nine. I’m excited about how it’s turning out.

Of course, I couldn’t end this column without giving a shout-out to the Stanford football team. What Coach Shaw has done with that program … it’s top-notch. It’s not easy to recruit players with intellect and athletic ability, but he has been able to do it. He’s done a helluva job, and it just goes to show you that you can do both. We keep winning that Directors’ Cup every year, and I think that’s a testament that you can be a great athlete and can have a high academic standard as well. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend the Rose Bowl, but I already have a place picked out to watch it.

Thanks again for all your good wishes this year. As usual, there were a lot of ups and downs, but one thing that remained constant was the support of the fans. I want you to know I really appreciate that, and I don’t take it for granted. Have a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.