MIAMI (Reuters) - It is one of the most frequently asked questions in sport: Will Tiger Woods ever get back to the level he was when he utterly dominated golf?
For the 14-times major winner, the query is misplaced.
“I don’t want it to be as good. That was never the intent,” Woods told reporters on Saturday.
“I want it to be better”.
Last year that comment might have been taken as little more than bravado. Woods was still working through a swing-change with coach Sean Foley and his talk was more about the mechanics of the game than the thrill of leading a field on a Sunday.
Instead of enthusing about birdies, Woods talked endlessly about “process”.
But with a four-stroke lead heading into Sunday’s final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, Woods, who already has a win at Torrey Pines under his belt this year, is clearly back in the zone.
It is visible in his body-language - the confident way he walks to the tee, addresses the ball and then, after blasting it down the middle, strides down the fairway.
It was evident on the greens, none more so than the 18th hole on Saturday where he drained an 16-foot putt for his 24th birdie in 54 holes.
The “process” may not be totally finished but Woods says the main work has been done and, thanks to his improved fitness as well, the crowds at the Blue Monster are witnessing something close to the final result of his work with Foley.
“I‘m finally healthy and that has a lot to do with it. I’ve been able to make changes with Sean and those have been pretty much implemented,” he said.
”We are just making fine tuning, each and every day you have little bitty adjustments here and there but the major overhauls are done.
“Now I have more time to dedicate myself to my short game and that’s allowed me to win some golf tournaments last year and Torrey this year,” he said.
The Blue Monster course has hardly been the toughest test of a top golfer and is incomparable with what awaits at Augusta next month but Woods looks likely to head there with at least one more win under his belt.
He has never lost a tournament when entering the final round with a lead of three strokes or more, and while the wind may get stronger and the greens will likely get harder and faster, the chasing pack know their chances will be limited on Sunday.
“Tiger played fantastic,” said playing partner McDowell. “All respect to the way he handled himself today and the way he played. He is going to be a tough man to catch”.
We might be hearing a little bit more of that kind of talk in the coming months.
Reporting By Simon Evans