Tiger Woods has shrugged off criticism levelled at him for missing last week’s high-profile PGA Tour Championship in America.
The world number one was absent for the tour’s season finale, choosing to continue his break from the game before flying out to China for the HSBC Champions event, which starts tomorrow at the Sheshan International Golf Club.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem expressed his disappointment that a number of big-name stars, with Woods obviously at the top of that list, were not playing in the event.
However, the 12-time major winner defended his decision to take a five-week break after a year overshadowed by the death of his father Earl in May.
“You can’t play them all – and the ones which you don’t play, people are going to wish you were there to play. That’s just the way it’s going to be,” Woods said.
“Five weeks was nice. It was nice to just get away and lock up the clubs for a little bit.”
A recharged Woods is now looking forward to getting back on the course, starting in Shanghai – where he finished runner-up to England’s David Howell last year – moving on to the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan and the two-day Grand Slam in Hawaii before finishing with his own tournament, the Target World Challenge, in December.
“I want to make sure I play well in these four events,” Woods added.
Howell is relishing the opportunity to defend his title.
As well as Howell and Woods, also looking to make an impact are Paul Casey, Retief Goosen, Luke Donald, 2006 European Tour Order of Merit winner Padraig Harrington and Jim Furyk – who finished runner-up to Adam Scott in the Tour Championship in Atlanta at the weekend.
“Obviously it’s going to be no easy task defending my title with the calibre of players like Tiger (Woods) and Paul (Casey) sitting here,” said 31-year-old Howell.
“Everybody who is here this week has either won a tournament or is ranked as one of the world’s top players. It’s a great field and a great tournament.”