- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
- 0 Shares
About to embark on his 17th full season as a professional golfer, Tiger Woods said he is looking forward to his first tournament of 2013 next week after a brief offseason that saw him fretting far less about injuries and his swing than at any time in the past few years.
For the second straight year, Woods will begin his season on the European Tour at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, followed a week later by his PGA Tour debut at the Farmers Insurance Open near San Diego.
In his previous tournament, he tied for fourth at the World Challenge, the 18-player event he hosts, on Dec. 2.
"I didn't play much golf after the World Challenge," Woods told ESPN.com via email Friday. "I putted and hit some balls with [son] Charlie, but that was about it. Since it was Christmas break, I spent a lot of time with the kids, which was great. That was exactly what I wanted to do. Because I was healthy most of the year, I played a lot of golf and was ready for a break.
"I did mostly fine-tuning after the break and continued working on my short game. I'm really happy where it is right now. I didn't start practicing hard until the first week of January. I feel good about my game and I'm ready to get back to Abu Dhabi."
Woods tied for third at the Abu Dhabi event last year, finishing two strokes behind Englishman Robert Rock and a shot behind Rory McIlroy, who also will make his season debut next week. As they were last year, Woods and McIlroy are expected to be grouped together for the first two rounds.
Although he was coming off a victory at the World Challenge a year ago, Woods feels much better about his progress than he did then. He won three times on the PGA Tour in 2012, had nine top-10 finishes and was second on the money list.
Perhaps most gratifying to Woods is that aside from one mishap at Doral, where he had a final-round issue with his Achilles that caused him to withdraw, he stayed healthy and was able to work on his game with instructor Sean Foley. Woods missed four months in 2011 with Achilles and knee injuries after missing the second half of 2008 and early 2009 due to knee surgery.
"I was able to play and practice," said Woods, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Dec. 30. "I was able to implement what Sean and I had been working on. It was the most I was able to play and practice in a long time, and it paid off."
Woods, who is ranked third in the world behind McIlroy and Luke Donald, said that when the calendar changes, his thoughts can't help but turn to the Masters, the year's first major championship, which he last won in 2005. Woods has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open and endured frustrating weekends at all four last year, although he had his best finish since 2009 when he tied for third at the Open Championship.
His schedule is not set after the Farmers, but it is expected that Woods would next play at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, followed by the Honda Classic (where he was second to McIlroy last year), the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he won in 2012.
Unless he did something out of the norm, his next event then would be the Masters.
"I do focus on the majors because it's the four most important weeks, but there's also plenty to be excited about this year," Woods said. "It's the start of a new season, there's a lot I want to accomplish and build on and I'm opening 2013 at a tournament I like. It's pretty easy to balance everything out."
3dMicah Adams, ESPN Stats & Information