Tiger Woods said the depth of talent in golf makes it harder than ever to win a major championship as his Grand Slam drought extends to more than four years.
Woods's pursuit of Jack Nicklaus's record 18 major titles has stalled since he won his 14th at the 2008 U.S. Open. Personal issues, injuries and learning a new swing have all contributed to that, but the former world No. 1 also points to the competition.
"I think the fields are deeper, there's no doubt," Woods said at a news conference Tuesday ahead of the British Open. "I think that there are more guys now who have a chance to win major championships than ever before, and I think that will just continue to be that way."
Woods is backed by the numbers. The past 15 majors have been won by 15 different players. In fact, the last nine champions have been first-time winners, most recently Bubba Watson at the Masters Tournament in April and Webb Simpson at last month's U.S. Open.
Woods begins his quest for the elusive 15th major title in two days at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in Lancashire, England, as the favorite with British bookmaker William Hill. He's a 9-1 choice to win his fourth Claret Jug, meaning a $1 bet returns $9 plus the original stake. England's Lee Westwood is the second pick at 14-1.
Woods, 36, has had an up-and-down season. He's won three times on the U.S. PGA Tour and climbed 19 spots in the Official World Golf Ranking to fourth. He's also missed two cuts and struggled in both majors, finishing tied for 40th at the Masters Tournament in April and tied for 21st at the U.S. Open last month.
"If I knew the answer I'd tell you, but I don't," Woods said when asked about his inconsistency. "I just keep trying to work and keep trying to get better."
To one of his fellow competitors, the three victories outweigh everything else.
"He's the only person to win three times this year, right?" Watson said Monday. "I think he's done pretty well."
Woods has fond memories of Royal Lytham from the first time he played the Open at the course in 1996. He shot 66 in the second round en route to winning the silver medal as low amateur, an experience he said helped him make a career-starting decision.
"The Open Championship that year I thought pushed me towards turning pro versus going back to college," he said. "I was still kind of iffy about whether I should turn pro or not. But that gave me so much confidence that I could do it at a high level."
Woods won his first major at the next year's Masters to start his run at Nicklaus. Although it's since sputtered, he says he there's no anxiety over when No. 15 will come.
"Not at all," he said. "I just try and put myself there. I think that if I continue putting myself there enough times, then I'll win major championships."