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Woods cannot wait for his season to start in Abu Dhabi

Tiger Woods of the U.S. speaks during a news conference ahead of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championships January 15, 2013. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Tiger Woods of the U.S. speaks during a news conference ahead of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championships January 15, 2013. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

By Tony Jimenez

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - A refreshed and rejuvenated Tiger Woods cannot wait to launch his season at this week's $2.7-million Abu Dhabi Championship, the former world number one said on Tuesday.

The 37-year-old American did not touch his clubs for a few weeks after the end of his 2012 campaign and, having gone through a series of injury-interrupted years in recent times, he is relishing the start of the new season.

"I am really excited going into this year," Woods told reporters at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Tuesday. "The off-season was brief, it was only six weeks, but I just shut it down.

"I put the clubs away and never looked at them for a couple of weeks but then it was nice to train and get stronger to get the endurance up.

"I went out and played nine holes today. It felt good to be out there again," said Woods.

The American won three times in 2012 and said it was an important season for him.

"Last year I had one little blip at Doral with my Achilles," said the 14-times major winner referring to his final-round withdrawal from the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Florida in March.

"But other than that it was a good year physically. I had not played a full schedule in a very long time - I think 2006, 2007, somewhere around then.

"For me it was a big year in that regard - that I was able to play an entire year."

Once he dusted the cobwebs off his golf clubs after his recent break, Woods said he had started off by practicing from the green back.

"That's how I was raised, from when I was a little boy, from putting to chipping to pitching to irons to driver," added the world number two.

"That's what I worked on to try to refine what I was doing towards the end of last year. I thought my ball-striking was good and my short game finally came round towards the end of last year."

This week's European Tour event has been billed as a duel in the desert between Woods and world number one Rory McIlroy - the pair will play together in Thursday's first round alongside triple former Abu Dhabi champion Martin Kaymer.

Woods, however, said the world rankings were of secondary importance to him.

"I would just like to win golf tournaments," he said. "The rankings take care of themselves by winning tournaments.

"At one point last year I was outside the top 50 and then, lo and behold, I won three times and look where I am now."

He may not be overly worried about replacing McIlroy at the top of the rankings but he certainly has no intention of repeating the Northern Irishman's late dash to the course at last year's Ryder Cup when he almost missed his start time.

"I once missed a tee time in a junior event," said the American. "I phoned in to ask for it and I said my name was Woods.

"Evidently there was another Woods playing, Steve Woods. They gave me his slot and I missed my tee time.

"It's the only time I've ever been in a situation like that and I vowed it would never happen again. That was a pretty empty feeling knowing all I had to do was give a little more detail, my first name, and it cost me a chance of winning a tournament."

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

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