Tiger Woods 'building' to Masters

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A few weeks removed from the worst start to any season of his professional career, Tiger Woods says the immediate future is all about one thing: the first major championship of the year.

"Once the Florida swing starts, we're all just building toward that one week in April," Woods said during a telephone interview with ESPN.com. "We're all about building toward that. Don't finish dead last. And if you win, great."

The Masters is not for another eight weeks, and Woods will play three tournaments in Florida prior to the first major of the season at Augusta National. During that span, he'll try to find a game that was missing at two of his best venues, Torrey Pines in San Diego and Emirates Golf Club in Dubai.

Woods shot a third-round 79 at the Farmers Insurance Open -- a tournament he's won seven times -- and missed a secondary 54-hole cut; he finished 80th. Then he tied for 41st at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, a tournament he's won twice and where he'd never finished worse than 20th.

In 18 years, he has never started so poorly; in fact, he has won at least one of his first two starts on nine occasions.

But Woods found a little form over the closing holes in Dubai, then made 10 birdies in 15 holes at an exhibition in India, where he drew big galleries in what was supposed to be a private 18-hole round during his first visit to the country.

"I took a lot of time off this winter to get ready for the season because it's going to be a long grind," Woods said. "It took three rounds in San Diego and three rounds in Dubai before finally it clicked in. My golf feels finally came back. Whatever shot I saw, I hit. Whatever number was given to me by Joey [caddie Joe LaCava], I hit. I had a wonderful feel for it.

"Then I went to India and it was just a continuation of that. I finally have my golf feels back. It just took a little longer than I would like."

As expected, there has been plenty of pointed discussion about Woods' slow start.

Woods' former coach, Hank Haney, wondered if the golfer spent too much time in the gym and not enough time practicing during his six-week offseason break. Sky Sports analyst Ewen Murray said during the Dubai broadcast that it was the "worst I have seen him technically."

This week, former Open champion and current CBS analyst Ian Baker-Finch said in an interview that Woods needs to forgo teaching and work out his issues on his own.

"I think he needs to go away and play golf every day for a month by himself and figure it out, because it's obviously not working, whatever he's trying to do," Baker-Finch said in an interview with Reuters. "He doesn't look in sync to me. His swing and his body aren't matching up."

For his part, Woods said he is not alarmed.

"It's not the way I'm used to starting," he said. "But also I didn't have the practice time I'm used to. I knew eventually it would kick in. Unfortunately it took me six rounds before it kicked in. I was very pleased with it on Sunday at Dubai and then India on Tuesday. It was merely a continuation of that. I put it together."

Woods said there's "no need" to be frustrated at this point.

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