Woods looks ahead to AT&T National

Tiger Woods said Aronimink "is a golf course that can host a major championship."
Tiger Woods said Aronimink "is a golf course that can host a major championship." (PATRICK SEMANSKY / Associated Press)
Posted: May 23, 2012

BETHESDA, Md. - To Tiger Woods' way of thinking, people have short memories, as illustrated by the guy who asked him at Monday's AT&T National media day: "How will you know when you're back?"

"Well, I won a tournament already," Woods said, sparking laughter from the audience at Congressional Country Club as he referred to his victory in March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Woods' win - his seventh at Bay Hill - broke a PGA Tour drought that had stretched back to September of 2009, or shortly before the time his life started to unravel with revelations about his marital infidelity.

But people want to see more from Woods, who has tied for 40th (Masters), missed the cut (Wells Fargo Championship) and tied for 40th (Players Championship) since the victory.

They want to see the Woods of 2000-01, when he held all four major championships at the same time. They want to see the Woods who has won 14 majors and 72 career PGA Tour titles. They want to see him stop changing coaches and resist tinkering with his swing.

But Woods, now 36 and ranked seventh in the world, is going to continue to work with coach Sean Foley, and he feels he will improve with repetition in competition.

"I think that I'm headed in the right direction," said Woods, who wore a gray pinstripe suit and blue shirt, but not his trademark Nike cap. "You have to understand, even when I've had some really good years, whether it was in the early 2000's or mid-2000's, even if I was winning golf tournaments - I still felt like I could improve and I could still get better each and every day.

"I never looked at it and said, 'Wow, that's my peak.' I can get better. If that was the case, I would have walked. Like anybody who plays this game, I think we can get a little bit better. I'm just going to continue to try and improve, incremental steps and every facet of my game, and make every facet of my game more efficient."

The AT&T National returns to Congressional next month after spending its two previous seasons at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, where Justin Rose (2010) and Nick Watney (2011) claimed titles. Congressional underwent renovation two years ago and hosted the 2011 U.S. Open.

With Woods idled last year by injuries to his left knee and left Achilles tendon, attendance was down 22 percent. But the tournament had a good run in the Philadelphia area and the host was pleased to make inroads for the Tiger Woods Foundation's educational programs.

"I think Aronimink is a fantastic place," he said. "The membership and the board were absolutely incredible with us and what they are trying to do with our Learning Centers. . . . [One opened] up there in the Philly area. It was great working with them."

The tournament also showcased Aronimink for possibly hosting a major, and Woods said the club "absolutely" deserved to get one.

"There's no doubt it's a golf course that can host a major championship, whether it be a U.S. Open or a PGA, but probably a PGA," Woods said. "You can certainly see that happening. I think it would be just a great venue, but I think the atmosphere would be incredible. As you all know, the Philly fans, they are really into their sports."

The U.S. Open will be in the Philadelphia area next year, at Merion Golf Club.

Woods will use next week's Memorial Tournament as a final tune-up for the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. He said it hurt him to watch last year's Open at Congressional, site of his 2009 AT&T National win, but he appreciated the play of champion Rory McIlroy, who shot a record 16-under 268.

"I would have played if I could have, just like in '08 [with a torn knee ligament at Torrey Pines]," he said. "If I could play, I would play. But unfortunately I was in a position where I really couldn't play. It's tough, because I missed out on a golf course that I know and that I've won on and that I like.

"So with those factors, it was difficult to sit back and watch. What Rory did was just absolutely extraordinary. He played some beautiful golf."

Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @joejulesinq.

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