(Reuters) - Tiger Woods finds himself in foreign territory heading into this week’s BMW Championship in Carmel, Indiana, having failed to qualify for the PGA Tour’s four lucrative playoff events last year.
Twelve months ago, Woods had slipped to 46th in the world rankings after being sidelined for 12 weeks earlier in the season while recovering from the left knee ligaments and Achilles tendon he hurt during the 2011 Masters.
As a result, he was unable to experience a revamped format for the FedExCup playoffs whereby the points were reset after the BMW Championship for the top 30 players who qualified for the Tour Championship finale in Atlanta.
“I didn’t play last year, I wasn’t even in the damned thing so it’s nice to be here and be able to contend in this thing,” Woods told reporters at Crooked Stick Golf Club on Wednesday.
”It’s interesting. You can go and win the first three playoff events, finish second in the last one and not win it (the FedExCup title). So it’s a different type of format, but it’s what we have.
“The whole idea is if the guys who are near the top five or just outside the top five win the last two (playoff) events, you know you’re going to win it, so the idea is to go out there and get (wins).”
Seventy players have qualified for this week’s BMW Championship, the penultimate playoff event.
Of the 30 who advance to the September 20-23 Tour Championship, any of the top five would automatically clinch FedExCup honors and a staggering $10 million bonus with victory in Atlanta.
“I‘m just going to try and get a ‘W’ this week,” Woods said of his playoff strategy at Crooked Stick. “That’s the goal. That’s why I‘m here. That’s why I entered.”
The former world number one’s fortunes have certainly improved considerably since this time last year.
Now ranked third, the 14-times major winner has triumphed three times on the 2012 PGA Tour and is delighted with the improvement in his game since he began working with swing coach Sean Foley in late 2010.
”I’ve really hit the ball well this entire year, especially this summer on,“ the 36-year-old Woods said. ”It was just a matter of making a few more putts and a couple more up-and-downs here and there.
”I‘m starting to do that now, so that’s a good sign. The work I’ve put in with Sean is really coming together. I‘m driving the ball probably better than I ever have. I‘m hitting it further and I‘m hitting it straighter, which is a nice combo.
“My statistics kind of reflect that. It goes to show you where I was and how bad I was driving it to where I am now and how well I‘m driving it.”
Asked how much he had changed as a person after becoming a parent, having two children, going through a very public divorce and coping with assorted injury problems over the years, Woods replied: ”It’s put a different perspective on things.
“Losing a parent and having the birth of two kids put things in better perspective for me. The (tournament) wins are fantastic, but the losses aren’t what they used to be, because I get to talk to my kids at night.”
Woods, who finished third at the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday to remain third in the FedExCup standings, has been grouped with compatriot Nick Watney and Northern Irish world number one Rory McIlroy for the first two rounds at Crooked Stick.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue