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Last victory chance for Tiger Woods to close out a painful year

THOUSAND OAKS, California  - Tiger Woods has a final chance to claim his first victory of the year at this week's Chevron World Challenge and close the curtain on a 2010 campaign he described as "very painful".

The former world number one has struggled on and off the course since his private life unraveled at the end of last season amid sordid revelations of serial philandering.

He took a five-month break from the game in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to repair his marriage and embarked on the fourth swing change of his career in August.

"It's been difficult, but also it's been very rewarding at the same time," Woods told reporters at Sherwood Country Club on Tuesday.

"It forced me to look deeper into myself ... how I grew up and how those things didn't match with the person who I am and getting back to that, getting back to how my parents raised me.

"As a golfer I learned so much more this year than any other year, and as a person infinitely more. So it's been a very successful year even though it was a very painful year."

Asked how difficult it had been for him to focus on golf, Woods replied: "Harder than anyone could ever imagine unless you've actually gone through it before yourself."

Unquestionably the greatest player of his generation and possibly of all time, Woods has so far failed to string together four good rounds during his 2010 season.

His aura of invincibility on the course was severely dented and he ended his 2010 PGA Tour campaign without a victory for the first time since joining the circuit in late 1996.

WINNING APPETITE

However his renowned hunger to win tournaments remains undiminished, despite all his recent travails.

"I love winning," he said while preparing for Thursday's first round in the elite limited-field event which he hosts. "That's just fun.

"Coming down the stretch on the back nine with a chance to win ... that's the rush and that's the thrill of why we practice ... to put ourselves in that one position.

"Whether you succeed or fail, it's about being there, and once you get a taste of that, you want to be there time and time again."

A four-times champion at his own event, Woods conceded the winning habit had been difficult to regain while overhauling his swing under the guidance of coach Sean Foley.

"Learning a new golf swing requires a lot of work, some new motor patterns," he said. "It's not exactly easy, but it's a fun challenge.

"Over the last five to six tournaments, I'd get in these hot streaks where I'd do it right. I'd get it going for two, three, four holes and now they're lasting close to nine holes.

"Now I've got to get it for 18 holes, eventually all 72, and then down to an entire major championship. So it's a process."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)