FORMER world number one Tiger Woods accepts he can no longer compete with the sport’s big hitters and will have to find another way of winning.
Early in his career the 14-time major winner’s power gave him a significant advantage, but, as he approaches his 39th birthday at the end of the month, he admits age and injuries means he cannot match the young guns when it comes to length.
Rory McIlroy, the man who has replaced Woods at the top of the world rankings and is seen as the successor to his crown, is almost 14 years younger and has a PGA Tour driving average of 310 yards.
Woods said becoming older means he has to become wiser and he will now take his inspiration from the likes of Greg Norman, Tom Watson and Sam Snead - who all won or contended in majors well into their 50s.
“I can’t blow it out there with some of the longer guys any more,” admitted Woods ahead of his return to action at the Hero World Challenge, the tournament he annually hosts which benefits his foundation, on his home course of Isleworth in Florida.
“Back when I was younger a long ball was 290 (yards) in the air. That was a big ball. Now it’s 320, 325. That’s the new standard out here.
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“Some of the longer guys, Bubba (Watson), Dustin (Johnson) they carry 325 - I don’t quite have that.
“But there’s other ways to go around a golf course and I think that’s when it’s really neat to be part of a sport in which you can play for such a long period of time.
“You can win at a very late age because you don’t have to physically dominate anybody, you just have to beat the golf course.
“And it is one of the reasons why you saw Sam Snead win at age 54, looked like Tom was going to win the British Open at 59 and Greg was part of the lead in the British Open when he was 54.
“I’m not quite 40 yet so I’ve still got some time.”
Woods will play in a competitive round for the first time since failing to make the cut at the PGA Championship in August, having struggled to get back into shape following surgery on a pinched nerve in his back in March.
He admits he is going to have to work his way back into playing, having made changes to his swing under the guidance of new consultant Chris Como after splitting with coach Sean Foley.
“It’s going to be nice playing a tournament this week and getting a feel for being under the heat and see where my swing is, see where my misses are,” he added.
“I know my good ones are good, but where are the misses are going to be? Am I able to rectify them right away or is it going to take a shot or two, or a hole or two?
“Maybe I might not be able to do it at all and that might not be a good thing, but I think I have a good understanding going into Thursday what I need to do to hit certain shots and see what happens.”
The event’s 12-man field includes Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and five members of the United States’ losing Ryder Cup team.
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