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‘I play to win’

Tiger Woods didn’t really say anything new in his presser at the Genesis Invitational the other day. As he has done countless of times since he turned professional in late 1996, he faced members of the media and noted, with utter confidence, that he was teeing off to win. “I’m not playing 50,” he argued. “As a competitor, if I’m playing the event, I’m going to try and beat you.” It didn’t matter that, this time around, he would be swinging his clubs after a long — make that very long — layoff; last year, he managed to make use of his cleats for only nine rounds, what with complications off multiple surgeries on his right leg and foot compelling him to limit his exposure to three Grand Slam events.

To be sure, Woods was nothing if not candid. He admitted that he was “rusty,” and that he may encounter difficulty with his “endurance” in navigating the Riviera Country Club course. Never mind that the pride of Pacific Palisades, California, is mostly flat, with just the steep elevation heading to the first hole and the length of the walk away from the 18th after a rigorous round posing as challenges to his body.

In any case, Woods isn’t merely aiming to triumph. En route to hopefully meeting his objective, he will also attempt to gauge his capacity to take in one more stop before the Masters. Make no mistake: He’s angling to make a splash at Augusta National, so everything between now and then will effectively be prep work. He’s making no secret of his plans even as he acknowledges the vast difference between shaping shots in a controlled environment and doing so in active competition.

Creditably, Woods did manage to negotiate 16 holes yesterday without the benefit of a cart. It also helps that he knows the terrain, although it hasn’t been kind to him in the past. Riviera just so happens to be where he made his tour debut as a 16-year-old high school sophomore; he missed the cut then by a whopping six strokes. In 13 appearances there, the best he has done is a runner-up and three Top 10 finishes. Which is to say he’ll give his all, but it may well not be enough — not in his condition, not at this stage of his career.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.

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