March 07, 2012

With Doral on tap, Tiger looking to ride momentum

Tiger Woods looks to continue his fine early-season play this week in the $8.5 million WGC-Cadillac Championship at the TPC Blue Monster at Doral Resort & Spa. He tied for second last week in The Honda Classic — closing with a final-round 62 — and will be competing for the third consecutive week.

“It was a good week,” Woods said Wednesday. “I hit a bunch of good shots, made a nice little run at them on Sunday, which was good. But here we are, a new week, a new tournament site and looking forward to it.”

To put Woods’ round in perspective, the scoring average last Sunday was 72.1. He credited hard work at the end of 2011 for helping propel him to his strong start in 2012.

“I think it’s the way I played in Australia, the exhibitions leading up to that, and the way I played those two weeks,” he said. “That’s what allowed me to win at the World Championship and one of the reasons why I’ve hit the ball as well as I have this year.”

Now that Woods feels comfortable with the full swing changes he has made with coach Sean Foley, he can spend more time working on other areas of his game. Using a new Nike Method putter last week — the grooves were slightly altered — Woods had several good days on the greens.

“You have to focus on the weaknesses and make them strengths,” Woods said. “And we’ve done that, and still have some more weaknesses to look at and to fix.”

Woods has made a steady climb up the PGA Tour’s statistical list. As of this week, he ranks first in total driving and all-round; is tied for second in proximity to the hole at 32 feet, 9 inches; is tied for third in scoring average at 67.93 and greens in regulation; is tied for fifth in driving accuracy at 72.8; ranks 14th in driving distance at 300.2 yards; and ranks 16th in total putting.

The field this week includes the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, the top 20 from the European Tour’s 2011 Race to Dubai standings and the top 30 from the PGA Tour’s 2011 FedExCup standings. The top 10 in this year’s Race to Dubai and FedExCup standings are also taking part. All of the top 50 players in the world will compete for the $1.4 million top prize.

Woods has excelled in WGC events, winning a record 16 titles in 37 starts. He has six victories in 11 appearances at the Cadillac Championship and has never finished outside of the top 10.

The TPC Blue Monster was designed by Dick Wilson in 1961 and will feature newly resurfaced Bermudagrass greens this year. The course plays to a par-72 and measures 7,266 yards. It includes 110 sand bunkers and 11 water hazards. Stephen Ames holds the course record of 61, which he shot in 2000.

Tiger begins opening-round play Thursday on the first tee at 12:40 p.m. ET with defending champion Nick Watney and Sergio Garcia. And while he is hopeful last Sunday’s great play will carry over, Woods knows he’s essentially starting from scratch.

“It doesn’t count,” he said. “That tournament’s over with. It’s a new golf course, and I have to learn it and be ready by Thursday.”