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Tiger Woods claims first victory since 2009

Tiger Woods might have bigger prizes in the back of his mind but the 14-time major winner has set himself the target of being crowned comeback player of the year in 2012 after ending his trophy drought.

His tongue-in-cheek quip came after winning the Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, California, last night, when he beat fellow American and playing partner Zach Johnson by one shot after birdies at the final two holes.

It gave Woods his first Stateside win since the BMW Championship in September 2009 and his first of any kind since the Australian Masters in November of the same year.

Woods made a 69 to finish 10 under par for the tournament, one ahead of Johnson who carded a 71.

Asked whether the win set him up for 2012, when Woods will be setting out with the aim of adding to his 14 majors, the 35-year-old said: "Yeah, I feel pretty good going into next year.

"I think if I have a good year I should be on the ballot for comeback player of the year, so I'm excited about that.

"So hopefully next year I can get on that ballot."

Woods has made more than his share of comebacks in recent years, most famously from the late-2009 sex scandal which cost him his marriage and several lucrative sponsorship deals.

After those "personal sins" - his own term - Woods returned for the 2010 Masters and finished fourth, and he repeated that finish at Augusta this year.

But Woods mostly struggled to recover the form which made him the most feared player in golf, and at times his performances were embarrassing.

He took time out of the game, missing the US Open and Open Championship this summer, and seeking treatment for the injuries which were preventing him playing at full steam.

Knee and Achilles issues were the main concerns, yet when he returned to action he missed the cut by six strokes in the US PGA Championship.

But Woods has been steadily improving and yesterday's win lifts him from 52nd to 21st in the world rankings. He was third in the recent Australian Open, and helped the United States win the Presidents Cup.

"People don't realise how hard it is to win golf tournaments," Woods said.

"I've gone on streaks where I have won golf tournaments in a row, but still, each one, I don't think I've taken it for granted.

"I know it's been a while, but also for some reason it feels like it hasn't.

"Because when I was coming down the stretch there I felt so comfortable. I felt comfortable in Oz; I felt comfortable in Augusta. When I'm putting myself in those positions, it is comfortable.

"As far as making the putt and the feeling afterwards, you know, I think I was screaming something, but it was just that I won the golf tournament. I pulled it off with one down, two to go.

"To go birdie, birdie is as good as it gets."

Woods believes his late father, Earl, would have been quietly impressed by the long-awaited victory.

"He would be proud of the way I hung in and was grinding, the way I was staying focused on what I was doing," Woods said.

"I didn't let anything get in the way of my shot selection and commitment to each shot and the shot shape I was going to play."

Woods had plenty of time to consider the intricacies of his game while he was on the sidelines, and to consider how much he values his golf career.

"Middle of the summer when I'm on crutches and on a couch and can't do anything, that's tough. Very tough," Woods said.

"Unfortunately, I've been in that position a few times in my career. It's hard. It's hard for me, because it's my second stint of missing major championships.

"I missed in '08 the back half of the majors [due to knee surgery]; this year was a similar thing. Unfortunately I missed the middle section.

"So it was tough. It was really tough. Probably more difficult than people can imagine. Even '08 was a lot harder than people might think. Because even though I won with my leg the way it was, I don't like missing major championships. I really don't."

Belfast Telegraph


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