LA JOLLA, Calif.--Tiger Woods' goals are never modest, of course, and truth be told he expects more of himself that others expect of him. So it should come as no surprise that his goal for 2008 is to win the grand slam. He even said on his website recently that "it's easily within reason."
Anyone advancing the notion that he's put unnecessary or undue pressure on himself by publicly acknowledging that he's aiming so high hasn't been paying close enough attention to where his arrows have been landing over the years.
"If Tiger Woods thinks he can win something, I don't know if anybody is going to argue with him," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said.
The grand slam venues this year are generally a comfortable fit for Woods--Augusta National, where he's won the Masters four times; the South Course at Torrey Pines, where he's won the Buick Invitational three straight years and five times; and Royal Birkdale, where in the 1998 British Open he missed a playoff by a single shot. Only Oakland Hills, site of the PGA Championship, has not been especially kind to Woods.
"I like Oakland Hills," Woods said Wednesday in a news conference at Torrey Pines, where he will make his 2008 PGA Tour debut in the Buick Invitational on Thursday. "I liked it when I first played there in '96
(in the U.S. Open). Those greens are the key to that golf course. You've just got to figure them out. I think that's when you're going to have to spend a little bit more time in the practice rounds in preparation, trying to figure it out."
Bobby Jones remains the only player in history to have won the grand slam, in 1930, when the slam included the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur, in addition to the U.S. and British Opens.
"It's the development of my game over the years," says Woods, explaining why winning the slam is within his field of vision. "For most of my career, I've won more than four tournaments per year, and all I have to do is win the right four, and I've done those a few times. I think if you put it all together, have luck on your side, all the stars will line up, and it certainly is possible. A couple years ago, I came within four shots of winning or being in a playoff on all four, so this year, I think it's possible."
As for the notion that his expectations are unreasonable and that he might be setting himself and others up for disappointment, he replied, "Well, I've had that happen before, won two majors in a row and people say, 'What's wrong with you?' It is what it is. The question is do I see it as a possibility, and I say, 'yes.' A lot of different factors go into it, and hopefully all those factors line up for me. The venues this year, I like all of them, but I've liked all the venues in the past. It's just a matter of getting your game coming together at the right time and getting all the right breaks."
Among the factors that represent potential obstacles is Phil Mickelson, who also is making his 2008 PGA Tour debut at the Buick.
"He's obviously a very comfortable player and he should be," Mickelson said. "He's won countless events and double-digit majors. But I think this year I should be able to put myself in contention as well, and I look forward to the opportunity to competing against him."
Mickelson, who proclaimed himself recovering finally from a respiratory ailment that has dogged him for months, has been working on strength training to help accommodate a shorter swing on which he has been working with instructor Butch Harmon.
"As we shortened the golf swing a little bit, I needed to have a little bit more speed to keep the same distance and hopefully have more accuracy," he said. "I've had to strengthen my lower body to be a bit more stable, and then I've had to strengthen my upper body to be able to accelerate.
"I feel very comfortable with the swing changes that I've made over the past nine months. I believe that heading into the 2008 season I'm much better equipped to drive the ball well, better physically equipped to accommodate the changes that Butch Harmon and I are implementing. I feel like I'll be able to drive the ball in the fairway and not have the big misses."