Family man Woods delights in time away from game

LOS ANGELES, Oct 30 (Reuters) Tiger Woods is revelling in the longest golfing break of his career, making the most of quality time with his wife Elin and young daughter Sam Alexis.

The world number one has not played competitively since the United States beat the Internationals in last month's Presidents Cup in Canada and will not return until he hosts the Target World Challenge in mid-December.

''It's been nice to have some time off and hang out with my family,'' the 31-year-old American said in his monthly newsletter today. ''We had a good trip on the boat and did a little fishing. Mostly, it was just fun to get away.

''My eyes light up every time I see my new daughter. Sam Alexis is four months old and has held a golf club in her hands.

I didn't start swinging a club until I was 11 months so she's got seven months until that happens.'' Woods, whose Swedish wife Elin gave birth to their first child in mid-June, is looking forward to each new chapter that his family can celebrate.

''For Elin and I, it's all about the little firsts: our first Halloween with Sam; our first Thanksgiving; our first Christmas,'' he said.

''I've never been much of a holiday guy but this is a pretty cool feeling. Everything has changed since we had Sam.

''For once, I won't be travelling or competing on Thanksgiving. I'm looking forward to spending time with my family and friends and plan to watch some football on television.'' On the golf course, Woods enjoyed another remarkable campaign in 2007. He dominated the PGA Tour, winning seven times in 16 starts, and was named PGA Player of the Year for the ninth time in 11 seasons.

STRONG FINISH ''I finished strong,'' he said, referring to his four victories in his last five appearances, including his 13th major title in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.

''Other than my putting, it was a pretty consistent year. My ball-striking was solid but I was hot and cold with my putter, which is kind of unusual for me.'' Woods, comfortably the best player of his generation, denied rumours that he had cut ties with his swing coach Hank Haney.

''I have not split with Hank,'' he said. ''He's spent more time at home helping his wife deal with health issues, which is the way it should be.

''Besides, I've become much better at correcting my swing flaws and that's ultimately where you want to get to with a coach-pupil relationship. Hank is still going to be my coach; that's not changing.'' Woods will end his golfing break of two-and-a-half months at the December 13-16 Target World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, California where he will defend the title he won by four shots last year.

''I look forward to hosting another strong field and have always thought my tournament is a reward for guys who have had good years or careers,'' he said. ''It's my way of saying thank you for helping make the PGA Tour so successful.'' This year's 16-man field features 11 of the world's top 20, including fellow Americans Jim Furyk (ranked third) and Steve Stricker (fifth) and British Open champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland (seventh).

Proceeds from the invitational event go toward Tiger Woods Foundation projects and the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim.

Reuters BJR VP0058

Story first published: Wednesday, October 31, 2007, 1:32 [IST]
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