Tiger Woods, mired in the worst slump of his pro career, insists there`s reason for optimism as he looks to the final major of 2015 -- the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
On the face of it, the 14-time major champion is on a salvage mission, having missed back-to-back cuts at major tournaments for the first time in his career with early exits at the US Open and British Open.
Whether Woods can halt that streak seems a more viable question than whether he can end a major title drought that now stretches back to his 2008 US Open triumph.
Woods, absent from the pre-PGA Bridgestone Invitational because his lowly 266th world ranking didn`t qualify him for the elite World Golf Championships event, said his performance next week will dictate the rest of his year.
If he has a strong enough showing, he could add the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina to his schedule in a bid to qualify for the US PGA Tour`s FedEx Cup playoffs.
If he doesn`t qualify, his season could be finished, and he`ll find himself attending the Deutsche Bank championship as non-playing tournament host.
"Hopefully I can get off my butt and get into the top 100 (in the FedEx Cup standings) and play the event," he said this week.
It seems a modest enough goal heading into a major championship he has won four times.
In fact, Woods is the only player to win the PGA Championship in back-to-back years since the event changed to stroke play.
He accomplished the feat twice, in 1999 and 2000 as well as in 2006 and 2007.
Woods was encouraged by his performance at the PGA Quicken Loans National, where his eight-under total of 276 was his lowest 72 hole score in relation to par at a PGA event since the 2013 BMW Championship.
"It was nice to be able to struggle but score," Woods said. "Finally I can `feel` my hands again which is nice.
"It`s a process of putting one foot in front of the other and one day I`ll get to the point where I`m in contention again."Whether that`s at Whistling Straits or not, Woods said, he has plenty of time.
"I`ve got years ahead of me, that`s how I look at it, not just this season," Woods says. "I`ve got years.
"And if you would have asked me that back when I had my back surgery (in 2014), I didn`t really know.
"That was a tough period in my career and my life. But now I`m on the good side of it."
Woods` woes this season -- from career-worst rounds on the PGA Tour and his missed cuts at Chambers Bay and St. Andrews to his break-up with ski star girlfriend Lindsey Vonn -- have provided plenty of fodder for pundits preaching his career is in irrevocable decline.
But Woods said part of the problem is that even as he struggles, he remains under scrutiny that few other golfers endure.
"I`ve had to answer questions every round where most players don`t," Woods said. "Obviously with instant news, things are different now in this world.
"Top players are analyzed a little bit more than they used to be. It`s a different generation and it`s the way it is."