AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Tiger Woods is happier and healthier than he has been in years.
His aching knee has stopped hurting and he has a new love interest.
His golf game is in great shape as well, having already won three tournaments this year and returning to top spot in the world rankings.
The only thing missing is a new major. It has been five years since the 37-year-old won the last of his 14 major titles, stalling in his bid to beat Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18.
If his state of mind counts for anything, Woods could add to his collection this week where he is the overwhelming favorite to win the April 11-14 Masters.
“I think life is all about having a balance and trying to find equilibrium and not getting things one way or the other,” he told a news conference at Augusta National on Tuesday. “And I feel very balanced.”
Woods has had enjoyed a prickly relationship with the media in recent years after his infidelities were exposed to the world and his marriage collapsed.
But he was all smiles when he faced his inquisitors on Tuesday, speaking candidly about his game and mindset and even cracking a joke about whether he could end his eight-year drought at the Masters after growing a small beard.
“(I‘ve) never won a major with a goatee on because it takes a long time for this thing to grow,” he said.
Woods did not elaborate on his relationship with American ski champion Lindsay Vonn after the pair announced last month they were an item, but offered a glimpse into how his psychological state had benefitted his game.
“It’s just a balance, a balance in life, and I think that’s what you’re seeing,” Woods said.
Although he has not won the Masters since 2005, Woods has been a contender in all but one of the years since, twice finishing runner-up and coming no worse than sixth in each edition, except last year when he tied for 40th.
But with his chronic knee problems behind him, Woods knows all the stars have aligned for him to make a charge for the title this week.
”I put myself in the mix every year but last year and that’s the misleading part,“ he said. ”It’s not like I’ve been out of there with no chance of winning this championship.
“I’ve been there, and unfortunately just haven’t got it done. I’ve made runs to get myself in it and been there in the mix on the back nine, either not executed, not made enough putts or didn’t take care of the par-fives.”
Editing by Frank Pingue