Practice imperfect for Woods as he juggles family time

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - Tiger Woods has always tried to maintain tight control over every aspect of his game but he conceded Wednesday that his troubled private life had taken its toll on his practice time.

The American world number one's marriage has been in tatters since revelations of his serial philandering emerged at the end of last year and, with a divorce looming, he has tried to see his two young children whenever possible.

"I haven't had as much time to practice overall with the kids," Woods, 34, told reporters while preparing for this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.

"Life has changed. I haven't practiced as much as I used to, nor should I. My kids are more important."

Asked if he had any concerns over his limited practice time, Woods replied: "No. Just got to be more efficient with what I do and when I do it."

The greatest player of his generation, the 14-times major winner has lost the aura of invincibility he once enjoyed.

After taking a self-imposed five-month exile in a bid to repair his marriage to his Swedish wife Elin, Woods returned to the PGA Tour in April but has yet to win in seven starts.

"It's not only concentration, but it's also preparation and then also my preparation out here (at events)," he said of his 2010 season. "People have been wanting more of my time.

"I've had more things going on once I'm at a tournament site than I have in the past, and for different reasons. That's obviously taken a little bit of a toll on my preparation. But things are starting to normalize, and that's been a good sign."


Woods, who triumphed six times on last year's PGA Tour, said he did not feel any sense of urgency to return to winning ways.

"I've been through periods like this before," he added. "I've just got to keep being patient, keep working, keep building and keep putting the pieces together.

"When they do fall into place, that's usually when I will win a few tournaments."

Woods could have not wished for a happier hunting ground than this week's par-70 Firestone layout where he bids for a record eighth victory.

"I've always liked this type of golf course," he said. "It fits my eye ... it's not target golf and I've always liked that. I'm looking forward to getting out there."

Snead won in Greensboro, North Carolina eight times between 1938 and 1965 although not at the same venue.

"Of late I've been driving the ball so much better, my iron game has been spotty and I just haven't putted well all year," he said. "If I clean all that up, hopefully (I can) put together at least these two weeks."

Woods is scheduled to tee off with British world number three Lee Westwood at 1350 local (1750 GMT) in Thursday's opening round.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)