Tiger Woods hints at changes before Masters

(Editors note: This image has been enhanced with the use of digital filters) Tiger Woods plays a shot during the pro-am prior to the start of the Honda Classic at PGA National Resort.

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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – When Tiger Woods tees it up this week at PGA National, he will be seeking his first victory of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season. But before he starts thinking about where his 80th Tour trophy should go in the mantle case, first things are first: He will attempt to play his first Sunday of the year on Tour on March 2.

Think about that for a moment.

Woods, of course, has made only one Tour start, his first “MDF” – made cut, did not finish – after a third-round 79 at the Farmers Insurance Open at one of his favorite stomping grounds, Torrey Pines. Woods has been tidying up his short game and putting and working with swing instructor Sean Foley.

“We’re just working on the same things,” Woods said. “He’s just doing a lot of video, and he’s looking at it. I’m not really looking at it. I know what I need to do and the feels that are associated with certain parts of the video, and I’m just focused on that.”

After his pro-am round at PGA National, Woods said he was pleasantly surprised with how well he played and was just getting used to the subtleties of the Champion Course. Despite his uncharacteristically slow start, the measure of success this week hasn’t changed.

“If I hit it great and win, if I slap it all over the place and win, I win,” Woods said. “That’s the intent.”

What could change is Woods' preparation for the Masters. He traditionally has played at Doral and Bay Hill, and he added PGA National since moving to the area. (There’s no Tavistock Cup exhibition to occupy his time this year.) In describing the variety of venues on Tour, Woods mentioned Tampa as a tight one and Houston and San Antonio as “pretty big.” Here’s the thing: Woods wasn’t speaking from experience. He never has played the Golf Club of Houston, home of the Shell Houston Open, nor TPC San Antonio, home of the Valero Texas Open. As for the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort, where the Valspar Championship is held, Woods last played there in the 1996 J.C. Penney Classic, a hit-and-giggle team event, with Kelli Kuehne.

Woods hasn’t won the Masters since 2005. When asked if he was planning to alter his schedule in the run-up to the season's first major, Woods hinted that there was a possibility while remaining coy about where it could be.

“Still looking into that, yeah,” Woods said. “Still looking into possibly making some changes going in there.”

If he were to add a tournament, which one of the three tournaments has the best chance of landing the World No. 1? The Innisbrook Course is a favorite among players, but that would mean Woods would play four consecutive weeks, with Honda and Doral ahead of Tampa and his defense of Bay Hill the following week.

In recent years, Woods has practiced at Albany Club in Nassau, Bahamas, ahead of Augusta. He typically skips the tournament the week before a major, which would eliminate the Shell Houston Open, a tournament that Woods has not played during his career.

Could the Valero Texas Open hit the jackpot again? Last year, the tournament lucked out when Rory McIlroy was a last-minute entry. Woods hasn’t played the Valero Texas Open since LaCantera Resort was the title sponsor and host course. That was 1996. The Greg Norman-designed TPC San Antonio has received mixed reviews from the pros.

How Woods plays the next few weeks likely will determine whether he decides he needs, as he likes to put it, more reps. After all, there is an old adage: You can’t win if you don’t enter.

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