SINGAPORE – On the two-year anniversary of losing his No. 1 ranking, Tiger Woods said Thursday that winning was the best way for him to get back to the top.
And that could take some time.
Four players have been No. 1 over the last two years. The current top ranking belongs to Rory McIlroy, who has widened his lead by winning the U.S. PGA Championship and consecutive tournaments during the FedEx Cup playoffs. McIlroy was runner-up last week against a strong field in Shanghai.
"Rory is playing a lot of events, and so am I, toward the beginning of the year," Woods said in Singapore, where he staged a youth clinic on putting. "It's about winning golf tournaments. That's how I got to No. 1, that's how Rory got to No. 1. You've got to win golf tournaments, and when you don't, you've got to be consistent and finish high. I'm looking forward to that."
Woods won three times this year on the U.S. tour, though it took time for his trademark consistency to develop. He did not have back-to-back finishes in the top 10 until the British Open (tie for third) and the Bridgestone Invitational (tie for eighth). He hasn't finished out of the top 10 since The Barclays in August, a streak of four tournaments. Woods ends his 2012 season at his World Challenge in California in the last week of November.
"Things are progressing nicely," Woods said. "Last year I was 127th on the money list, this year I was second. So I think that's a pretty good improvement in a year. And given that I'm healthy, I'm really looking forward to next year."
He decided not to play the HSBC Champions this week in China, saying he was too tired to prepare properly. Woods will have played 24 tournaments this year, his most since 2005, which includes an unofficial event in Turkey and the Ryder Cup.
Woods confirmed he will not play in January at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, where he last competed in 2005. That will give him six full weeks off after his World Challenge.
"Doing these things are easy," Woods said of the clinic at Marina Bay Sands. "Competing and getting ready for another golf tournament ... I just didn't want to do that. I've got four more rounds, which is my tournament in LA, and I'm done until Abu Dhabi next year, so I'm looking forward to having this extended break. This is like my offseason now, and I'm really looking forward to just getting away from it.
"Competing and playing golf tournaments — the playoffs, the Ryder Cup and a lot of other tournaments — it's been a lot."
McIlroy also is skipping the World Golf Championship this week, though he will finish his season in Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai as he tries to match Luke Donald's feat of winning money titles on the U.S. PGA Tour and European Tour in the same season.
Of all the legitimate rivals for Woods over the years, McIlroy is the first player who is younger — by more than 13 years. Woods said it would take time to determine whether the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland is the best he has ever faced.
McIlroy beat Woods in an 18-hole exhibition in China on Monday, though Woods beat him in Turkey during an 18-hole match based on stroke play.
"Trust me, I've played against a lot of guys over the years that have been really good," he said, mentioning Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington. "All these guys have won two to four major championships during the time that I've been on tour. And Rory has, too, but he's still young. He's only 23 years old. Let him grow, let him develop over the next decade. He's still learning how to play the game. He's only going to get better with age."