MEXICO CITY – American golf great Tiger Woods said on Wednesday prior to the start of the WGC-Mexico Championship that he feels much better in 2019 than he did last season, when concerns about his long-standing back problems were still in the front of his mind.
“There’s really no comparison compared to last year. I didn’t really know what my golf future would be,” Woods, who made a stunning return to his sport’s elite in 2018, with his ranking climbing from well outside the top 500 to No. 14, said at a press conference at Club de Golf Chapultepec, just west of Mexico City.
“I’m just getting started this year. This is my third event, and so just trying to get everything organized but I feel so much better than I did last year. Last year was a bit of wondering how am I going to piece this together? How am I going to figure it out? What am I going to be capable of? By the end of the year, I figured it out.”
The winner of 14 major tournaments (second all-time after fellow American Jack Nicklaus’s 18) and by far the biggest draw in golf has never played this Mexico City event, which will run from Thursday to Sunday.
“I take a lot of pride in playing well in the biggest events, that being the majors, the Players (Championship) and the World Golf Championships” events, a group of four annual tournaments that Woods has won a record 18 times, the 43-year-old superstar said.
The 13th-ranked Woods made his debut this year at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, where he finished in a tie for 20th after shooting a final-round 67.
He then competed last week at the Genesis Open in Los Angeles, where he finished tied for 15th.
Woods is by far the biggest name at the Mexico City event, but the star-studded field also includes every member of the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 10 except for top-ranked Justin Rose of England.
The biggest challenge for the world’s best players will be the high altitude in Mexico City, a metropolis that lies at roughly 2,240 meters (7,345 feet) above sea level.
“The ball was obviously traveling a long way. Some of our numbers on the (driving) range were a bit surprising, and even on the golf course how far it was going,” Woods said, noting that in a practice round on Tuesday a shot he hit with a pitching wedge went further than one he struck with a 5-iron on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Woods said distance control is crucial because the greens at the the Club de Golf Chapultepec course are difficult and players will get in trouble if they overshoot them.
“But the most interesting thing is that the ball just doesn’t curve up here, at altitude. There’s not enough resistance, so shots I thought I shaped just didn’t have any shape to it. So that’s going to be one of the things I need to get organized today and get ready for tomorrow,” he said.
Woods’ playing partners on Thursday and Friday will be fifth-ranked American Bryson DeChambeau and world No. 61 Abraham Ancer, Mexico’s top-ranked player.