World No. 1 Tiger Woods admits he's had to adapt his game the older he gets
"I know that I don't have 20 years in my prime," says winner of 14 major titles
Woods hasn't won a major championship since the U.S. Open in 2008
The 38-year-old starts his season on the PGA Tour this weekend in La Jolla
Time waits for no man – not even Tiger Woods.
The man who dazzled the world of golf by accumulating 14 majors by the age of 32 has now gone five seasons without a single one.
Every January he is asked if this will be the year he gets back on the trail to catch Jack Nicklaus’ record haul of 18 – every year he says he’s determined to.
But 2014 could hold particular resonance for him, as three of the season’s four majors are at venues where he has won before.
And as he prepares for his first event on the PGA Tour – a defense of his Farmers Insurance Open crown – the world No. 1 has acknowledged he’s had to mold his game as the years have gone by.
“I view it as every year’s a big year,” 38-year-old Woods told a press conference. “Every year that I get a chance to compete and play in tournaments and major championships for as long as I decide to do it, every year’s a big year, every year counts.
“Looking back from the beginning of my career to now, I know that I don’t have 20 years in my prime.
“I don’t see being 58 and being in my prime. Most guys don’t jump from the foul line at age 58, so it’s a little different but the outlook is still the same.
“I still prepare the same, I still work my tail off to be ready to compete at this level and beat everything that I’m playing against.”
Woods won five PGA Tour titles in 2013 – the tenth time in his illustrious career that he’s done so. It took him to a total haul of 79 titles.
That performance was enough to see Woods crowned the Tour’s 2013 Player of the Year, even though he failed to seriously threaten any major titles – tied fourth his best showing at the Masters.
And while his game is still in good enough shape to be way out in front at the top of the world rankings, Woods says it is, inevitably, less powerful than it used to be.
“I’m still able to generate the same amount of club head speed as I did when I was younger, it’s just that I can’t do it every shot anymore,” Woods said.
“I don’t have the rotational speed that I used to and that’s a fact of aging. I would think that as you get older your skills would start to decline.
“What’s happened is when I started working with (Dave) Pelz in 2004 on certain things with distance control, iron work, wedge work, putting and so forth, it’s all getting better now each year the more I’m able to work on it, the more I’m able to practice.”
If Woods needed a reminder of where his game used to be in the majors, he will get it this season.
He’s triumphed four times at Augusta, scene of the year’s first major – The Masters – and finished both second and third at Pinehurst, scene of this season’s U.S. Open.
The British Open returns to Royal Liverpool – where Woods won in 2006 – before the final major of the season, the PGA Championship, is staged at Valhalla in Kentucky, where Woods took the title in 2000.
With the 40-mark less than two years away, many commentators think these next two seasons will be vital for Woods.
The player himself referenced another American sporting great – legendary basketball star Michael Jordan – as an example of someone who’d been able to adapt his game as he got older.
“When you look at (Michael Jordan) when he first came out, he was able to dunk over everybody, but he got beat up by the Pistons three straight playoffs, he was out and next thing you know he built up his body and developed a fadeaway,” Woods said.
“So you do it a different way. You evolve as you age and I think I’ve done that so far.”