Tiger eyes pain-free 2016 after a year of struggle

Wed Dec 23, 2015 3:00pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

(Reuters) - With his 40th birthday just one week away, Tiger Woods looks optimistically forward to playing golf pain-free next year while he reflects on a 2015 campaign blighted by injuries, poor form and a plummeting world ranking.

The greatest player of his generation and arguably of all time, Woods has not won a tournament anywhere since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and his title drought in the major championships dates back to the 2008 U.S. Open.

Woods, the world number one for a record total of 683 weeks who is now stunningly ranked 414th, said earlier this month that he was in the dark about the future of his playing career, asking himself: "Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?"

Yet the winner of 79 career PGA Tour events now says he firmly believes he will still be contending, and emerging triumphant, in the majors over the next five to 10 years while "still playing golf at the highest level".

In a blog posted on the PGA Tour's website, Woods wrote: "The thing I'm looking forward to the most about 2016 is getting back out there again. I've missed it, and I would like to do it pain-free.

"I haven't done that in what seems like a long time. I've had it in spurts the last few years and have done some pretty good things, but I'd like to have sustained health."

Woods, who has slipped in recent years due to injuries and mastering of a new swing, thought he was back to form after tying for 10th at the Wyndham Championship in August, following a dismal season in which he missed three cuts in the majors.

But three weeks later he had a second microdiscectomy surgery to alleviate pressure on a disc in his lower back, before needing another procedure on Oct. 28 on the same area due to discomfort.   Continued...

U.S. golfer Tiger Woods smiles during a golf clinic in Mexico City October 20, 2015. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido