Energised Woods aims for winning start at Torrey Pines

San Diego: Much has changed for Tiger Woods since his private life spectacularly unraveled just over a year ago but his appetite for winning golf tournaments remains as sharp as ever.

The former world number one plays his first event of the year at this week`s PGA Tour event in San Diego and he is itching to tee off in Thursday`s opening round after being energized by a highly productive off-season.

"I`m really looking forward to getting out there and playing, and basically feeling the heat again," Woods told reporters at Torrey Pines on Wednesday.

"I haven`t been here in a few years, and over the years I`ve had a little bit of success here."

Woods returns to Torrey Pines for the first time since his remarkable playoff win at the 2008 U.S. Open, the seventh professional victory of his career at the picturesque venue which hugs the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean.

He won the PGA Tour event staged here six times, including a run of four in a row from 2005.

"My expectations are the same," Woods replied when asked to outline his goals for the week. "Whatever event I enter is to win the event."

Although Woods has not won anywhere since the 2009 Australian Masters, he said he was feeling invigorated after working on his game during the off-season with Canadian swing coach Sean Foley.

"That`s what was nice about this off-season is I was able to work on my putting and my stroke and go back to my old keys and old feels," the 14-times major winner added.

"Just putting in the work. It takes thousands of balls, and I was able to do that. Last year I really didn`t do much of that and consequently I had probably one of the worst putting years I`ve had."

Woods spent much of last year unsuccessfully trying to repair his marriage and also undergoing the fourth swing change of his career.

Having been engulfed by a sex scandal at the end of 2009, he finished the 2010 PGA Tour season without a title for the first time since he turned professional in 1996.

However, since he joined forces with Foley after the PGA Championship in August, his form has steadily improved.

"I`m just trying to get better, trying to build on what I did last year and the end of last year," Woods said. "Sean and I have been talking about that quite a bit. We`re excited about where my game has progressed over the off-season."

The aura of dominance which Woods previously enjoyed over his rivals has clearly been diminished since the end of 2009 but he was untroubled by any talk on the subject.

"I`ve heard it before," he said. "I`ve gone through stretches where I haven`t won. I`ve had it happen in my career before, and I`ve been through this before. It`s fine."

"All I have to do is keep working and stick to the game plan, just like I have in the past. I think my record kind of speaks to that."

Perhaps the biggest change for Woods going into the 2011 PGA Tour season is the relative stability of his life away from the course.

"I obviously was consumed by other things in the last year and had to deal with that," he said. "That is what`s most exciting about this year is having the proper perspective on things."

"In order to play this game at a high level, it helps to have a clear mind. It helps having your life in balance. Certainly my life is much more balanced than it was in the past. That is exciting for me."

Woods is scheduled to tee off at 0900 local (1700 GMT) on the North Course at Torrey Pines in Thursday`s opening round with fellow Americans Rocco Mediate and Anthony Kim.

Bureau Report