“You’re still able to be successful, but you do it a different way,” Woods said. “You evolve as you age, and I think I’ve done that so far.”
The talk about Woods hasn’t changed, either.
Even though the Masters just under three months away, any mention of Woods starts with the majors.
The playoff win at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open was the last major he won. He has been stuck on 14 for the past five years, squandering good chances at the U.S. Open in 2012 and the British Open last year.
This would seem to shape up as an important year because three of the majors are on courses where he has won - Augusta National, Royal Liverpool and Valhalla. The U.S. Open is at Pinehurst No. 2, where Woods has finished third and second.
“I view it as every year is a big year,” Woods said. “Every year that I get a chance to compete and play in tournaments and major championships for as long as I decide to do it … every year counts. Looking back from the beginning of my career to now, I know that I don’t have 20 years in my prime. I don’t see being 58 and being in my prime. Most guys don’t dunk from the foul line at age 58, so it’s a little different. But the outlook is still the same.
“I still prepare the same,” he said. “I still work my tail off to be ready to compete at this level and beat everyone that I’m playing against.”
Woods and Phil Mickelson are the star attractions, as usual, at Torrey Pines. This was the first PGA Tour event that both watched when they were boys - Mickelson is from San Diego, Woods from about 90 minutes north in Orange County.
Mickelson started his year last week in Abu Dhabi where he was runner-up despite a double-hit out of the bushes that led to triple bogey. Mickelson is excited about everything this year - his new driver, his putting, off-course activities and a chance at the career Grand Slam at the U.S. Open.
The South Course? That doesn’t excite him as much. Mickelson is a three-time winner of this event, but not since Rees Jones began redesigning the South for the U.S. Open.
Mickelson can relate with Woods when it comes to advancing age. He turns 44 in June.
“The difficult for me is that as I get older, it’s a lot more work to be physically able to perform the way I would like,” he said.
“I’ve got to watch what I eat, I’ve got to work out, manage arthritis and I’ve been fortunate that the treatment on that’s been phenomenal. I haven’t had anything holding me back from working on my game or what have you, but I’ve got to spend a lot more time in the gym making sure that ligaments and tendons and muscles and joints and everything are strong and healthy.
“It’s just more effort to be able to play golf at the highest level.”
There was one other reminder for Woods. He received his trophy at the same time 20-year-old Jordan Spieth received a crystal as rookie of the year.