Tiger facing final title defense at Aussie Masters

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The Australians last saw him as the No. 1 player _ that ranking belongs to Lee Westwood now _ whose game and image was impeccable. Some see this year’s event as Woods coming full circle, for it was in Melbourne when he last looked like the Tiger Woods the public was used to seeing.

And it was in Melbourne when the National Enquirer first linked him to a New York nightclub hostess.

For Woods, it’s just another tournament.

“I think I’m just here to defend the title,” he said. “I’m here to play a great golf course and play against a great field. And that’s how I’m looking at it.”

Unless he wins this week, it will be the first time in his pro career that Woods is not the defending champion somewhere in the world.

“Hopefully, that doesn’t happen,” Woods said. “I’m going to go out there and give it my best, and I’ll try and make sure I give myself every opportunity to win this event. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. That doesn’t change my commitment to getting better and working on my game.”

That commitment began in August. Three tournaments into his return to golf in April, Woods parted ways with swing coach Hank Haney and tried to figure it out himself. The results were even worse, and it didn’t help that his time was divided between golf and working out his divorce.

Woods eventually wound up with Sean Foley, intrigued by his ideas through two other Foley pupils, Sean O’Hair and Hunter Mahan. But even after they met up at the PGA Championship, Woods said he wasn’t sure he was prepared for another swing change.

He revamped his swing twice under Butch Harmon, then again under Haney. He knew how long it could take, and he wasn’t sure he was ready to go in that direction. It was only after the PGA Championship, where Woods tied for 28th, that he decided to take on the task.

“I was definitely waffling,” he said. “At the PGA, every night I was trying to figure out, ‘Should I actually do this or not?’ Because I know the undertaking it is. I know how much effort it takes, how many swings you have to make in the mirror, how many things you have to think about, the adjustments that it takes. Do I really want to do that again?”

The question now is how long it takes him to look like he once did on the golf course.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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