Woods struggles to reclaim form

Tuesday, 1 February 2011 00:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

SAN DIEGO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Tiger Woods began his 2011 PGA Tour campaign with high hopes at the Farmers Insurance Open but he ended his week on a bitterly low note as he limped home with a three-over-par 75 on Sunday.

Despite launching his season at one of his most successful venues, the 14-times major champion struggled with his swing for most of Sunday’s final round while he battled with his putting.

Woods, a seven-times winner at Torrey Pines since turning professional in late 1996, was a shadow of his former dominant self as he finished the tournament at one-under 287, well out of contention.

“I hit a lot of good shots early in the week, and then it progressively got worse,” Woods told reporters after recording only his third over-par score at the event in 47 rounds.

“Today was nice starting out. I hit it just as pure as can be and then it progressively got worse as the day went on. I hit so many good putts that didn’t go in today.

“So I have a week to get ready and got a lot of work to do.”

Woods, who totalled 32 putts on the day, has next week off before heading off to compete in the European Tour’s Feb. 10-13 Dubai Desert Classic.

The 35-year-old American had been in a buoyant mood at the start of the week after being energised by a highly productive off-season.

“I’m really looking forward to getting out there and playing, feeling the heat again,” the world number three said on the eve of the tournament. “Over the years, I’ve had a little bit of success here.”

Woods was back at Torrey Pines for the first time since his remarkable playoff win at the 2008 U.S. Open, the seventh professional victory of his career at the picturesque venue which hugs the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean.

He has won the PGA Tour event staged here six times, including a run of four in a row from 2005.

Opening rounds of 69 and 69 left Woods feeling optimistic heading into Saturday’s third round before he tumbled out of contention, repeatedly shaking his head in frustration after hitting errant shots.

“The old motor patterns are still there, and that is the thing,” said Woods, who embarked on the fourth swing change of his career with Canadian coach Sean Foley in August.

“I’m going to have to fight through that. And I’ve done it before, and there’s no reason I can’t do it again. It takes reps and it takes reps under competition. You can’t be afraid to go ahead and try it.”

Asked how close he was to completing his swing overhaul, he replied: “Oh, it’s progressing.

“I don’t know. It’s one of those things where I don’t know where the end is. You never know where the end is until you’re done with your playing career.”

Woods, who was engulfed by a sex scandal at the end of 2009, finished the 2010 PGA Tour season without a title for the first time since he turned professional in 1996.

He has not won a tournament since the Australian Masters in November 2009.

Asians to prosper in 2011, says Thongchai

(Reuters) - Asian golfers will buzz around golf’s leader boards in 2011 and can be expected to make a serious assault on the majors, says Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee.

Newly crowned Asian Tour number one Noh Seung-yul of South Korea would have a big year after becoming the region’s youngest Order of Merit champion, Thongchai said, before picking big-hitting countryman Kiradech Aphibarnrat as a player to watch.

“Noh has proven his skills and potential. He is a very hardworking youngster and I am sure he will follow in the footsteps of Y.E. Yang and possibly win a major title very soon,” the 41-year-old told the Asia Tour.

“Kiradech is also a growing young talent and with his massive distances and achievements in 2010, I am looking forward to see him win some tournaments in 2011.

“Y.E’s victory in the PGA Championship in 2009 gave a major boost to golfers in Asia. Golfers like Noh have proven themselves and Asian golfers are actually making a great impact in world golf.“I am sure there will be more promising Asian golfers topping the leaderboards this year and possibly in the majors too.”Three-times Asian Order of Merit winner Thongchai has set himself some tough goals, including a first victory on European soil.

“I am looking to win a few tournaments in Europe this year,” he said, pointing out that he has come close on a number of occasions.

“I had some magnificent results in the first half of the year... but slowed down a bit in the second half.

“I have been working very hard lately to get myself prepared. I have also been working hard in the gym, hoping to hit the ball a bit longer too.”