Woods primed for 2012 challenge

    Tiger Woods was in jovial mood ahead of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship which starts Thursday.

    Story highlights

    • Tiger Woods says he is great shape ahead of the 2012 golf season
    • Woods is preparing to play his first event of the season in Abu Dhabi
    • Former world number one had a disappointing 2011 punctuated by injury
    • The 14-time major winner last won a full-field tournament in November 2009
    Former world number one Tiger Woods says he is in his best shape for a decade on the eve of his first golf tournament of 2012.
    The 14-time major winner is in the United Arab Emirates to participate in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, hoping to put a disappointing 2011 behind him.
    Woods did win the Chevron World Challenge at the end of last year but it was his own tournament and a limited, invitation-only field. The last time he won an event with a full field was in November 2009.
    But after injuries compounded his performances over the past 12 months, the American insists he is fighting fit and raring to go when the tournament tees-off Thursday.
    "It's been quite a few years since I've been physically fit," Woods said in quotes carried by AFP. "So I'm looking forward to getting out there and then playing and give it a full season, which I haven't done in a while.
    "I don't know, probably eight, 10, 12 years ago was the last time I felt fully fit. I had surgery in 2002. I had surgery in 2008. A couple other ones in there, too. It's been a while.
    "I played really well my last three events, so I'm really looking forward to this year, and continuing and building on what we have done towards the end of last year for sure."
    The Abu Dhabi tournament boasts a strong line-up with golf's top four players in attendance.
    English duo Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, ranked one and two in the world respectively, are joined by 2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, from Northern Ireland, and Germany's 2010 PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer.
    Woods, who will play his first two rounds alongside world No. 3 McIlroy, rejects the idea the end of last season came at the wrong time. The 35-year-old showed glimpses of his best form at the Presidents Cup in Australia before taking the Chevron title.
    "Because I spent quite a bit of energy getting ready for those events, I really did need to take a break," he said.
    "Just kind of more mentally than anything, just get away from the game, because I was working hard and just trying to get my game peaking for those events.
    "Since I was not able to get ready for the major championship season last year, I kind of spent a lot of my energy getting ready for those three events, and turned out to be pretty good."
    Woods also admitted that one of his reasons for taking part in Abu Dhabi was down to the appearance money on offer.
    "I'd have to say yes, it certainly does.," he added. "That's one of the reasons why a lot of the guys who play in Europe, they do play in Europe, and they do get paid. I think the only Tour that doesn't pay is the U.S. Tour."