PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- A persistent fog finally lifted Wednesday at PGA National Resort and Spa and gave way to the pro-am.
Tiger Woods is confident the haze that has hovered about him during the start of his 2014 campaign will do the same.
Off to the worst start of his 18-year professional career – he has 0.79 points in the FedExCup standings, tied for next to last with Bobby Gates – the world's No.1 said he put in the time to practice and play heading into his third start of the year, Thursday in the star-studded Honda Classic on the Champions Course.
His final preparation was in the pro-am, where he got reacquainted with the course and concentrated on his putting.
"It feels good," Woods said about his game. "I was pleasantly surprised how well I was hitting it today."
Many people were taken aback at how Woods began his year. The five-time winner in 2013 and the PGA Tour's Player of the Year for a record 11th time failed to make the 54-hole cut in his first event this season, the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where he has won eight times as a professional. A week later in the Middle East, he tied for 41st in the Dubai Desert Classic. In nine of his other 17 years, Woods won at least one of his first two starts, and three times won both.
The winner of 14 majors and 79 Tour titles – both second best all-time – conceded he didn't practice or play as much as he should have during his offseason. He spent plenty of time with his two kids and went to France to watch his girlfriend, Lindsey Vonn, ski. And dealing with a series of nagging injuries – including a bad back that gave him fits during the FedExCup Playoffs – Woods said he had to get his body "organized" before he got his game in order.
His game, he said, started to come around in the final round in Dubai three weeks ago and the next day in an exhibition in India. He has been working hard since near his Florida home at The Medalist Club, including working with his swing coach, Sean Foley, a few times.
"We spent a little bit of time, not that much. It's more like he comes in, we come up with a game plan of what I need to work on, and then I go off and work on it," Woods, 38, said. "A few days later we do the same thing, so the process is I've always done it in the past, and it's worked pretty well for me that way. ... I worked quite a bit on my short game, my putting, and made sure I got that dialed in. I felt that that was a bit off."
Woods said he's ready to tackle a field that includes seven of the top-10 players in the world, including Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.
In years past, Woods got away with being a little off and still won. NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller said he thinks those days are over. That's especially true in the majors, where Woods has been winless since earning his 14th in the 2008 U.S. Open.
In January, Miller said the upcoming Masters is huge for Woods and will set the table for the rest of the season's majors. Monday in a conference call, Miller seemed to add that it will be tough for Woods to win No. 15 this year.
"'Before it was like if he had his A-game, you could just kiss it off," Miller said of anyone else's chances of winning. "It wasn't going to happen. He was just so much better than everybody, and so much better under pressure, and so much better on Sundays and so much better in the majors. It was not a fair fight, as (fellow analyst) Roger Maltbie would say.
"Now, it's a fair fight, wouldn't you say?"
Woods said the road to the Masters begins this week – for him and everyone. He will then defend titles in Doral next week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and in Orlando in two weeks at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
"I think once we get to Florida we're all thinking about our way to Augusta," Woods said. "Some guys usually start at Doral, some guys start here, but once we get to Florida, now most of the guys are getting pretty serious about their prep to Augusta. ... If I hit it great and win (this week), if I slap it all over the place and win, I win. That's the intent."