Tiger still the daddy

From Brian Keogh in California

Padraig Harrington might be a father twice over but Tiger Woods is still the daddy on the golf course.

The world No 1 moved even further ahead of his rivals after 2007 season he regards as second only to his Tiger Slam performances of 2000 and better than last year, when he won two majors.

As he prepared to chase his eighth win of the season in this week's Target World Challenge and donate the $1.35 million winner's cheque into the foundation that bears his name, Woods revealed that becoming a father for the first time this year has made life even sweeeter.

Voted PGA Tour Player of the Year for the ninth time in the last 11 seasons, Woods said: "It's been a great year. To get obviously the wins and get the respect of your peers, that's always what you want to have happen. This year was just a fantastic year on the golf course and even better off the golf course."

Woods and his Swedish wife Elin celebrated the birth of daughter Sam Alexis in June, yet Woods was equally pleased with a record-breaking performance on the world's fairways.

While he played just 17 times before this week, he won his 13th major in the US PGA at Southern Hills and took two World Golf Championship title, he also finished second in the US Open and joint second in the Masters.

He also won four of his last five PGA Tour starts to wrap up the inaugural FedEx Cup and round off an official year where he took the money title with record earnings of over $10 million.

Yet Woods still looks back on the titles that got away, explaining: "I had a great chance to win three of the four majors this year. I finished second in two of them. I was just a few shots away from basically doing what I did in 2000, the number of seconds I had, it wasn't that far away.

"If I get those done, get those squared away, people would probably be comparing it to 2000 if not better.

"The US Open was frustrating because I thought I played well enough to win the championship but I didn't capitalize on my opportunities.

"At Augusta I did not finish the last two holes well. I bogeyed 17 and 18 both Friday and Saturday. You can't do that and expect to win a major championship.

"And then what I did on Saturday at the US Open, not capitalizing on the best ballstriking round I had in any of the four majors. That was a day I could have taken the lead and separated myself a little bit, and I didn't do that.

"A couple years ago I think I was, what, four shots, maybe five shots away from winning all four? I've been pretty close the last few years of eclipsing what I did in 2000 as far as consistency. I won nine times, 12 around the world and three majors that year.

"That's not too bad. But this year I won well, over 50 percent of my tournaments, so that's not bad, either."

Following the death of his father Earl last year, Woods described 2007 as the "polar opposite" with the arrival of Sam Alexis 24 hours after his US Open disappointment.

And despite the sleepless nights, he confessed that he can't wait for her to grow up so he can pass on the life lessons that his father taught him when he was growing up.

He said: "I think the greatest thing is no matter how rough a night it is, sleepwise, just seeing her smile in the morning, you forget everything.

"You hear that from a lot of parents, but until you actually get to experience it yourself and actually feel it, then you truly do appreciate it."

Woods hasn't played an official event since the Presidents Cup in September but hopes to get off to a flier as he bids for his fourth Target World Challenge title today.

He has yet to sit down and work out his 2008 schedule but looking at the bigger picture as a proud dad, he believes he now appreciates the little things in life.

He explained: "After my father passed away, I think probably every kid feels the same way, that you feel like you didn't spend enough time with him. I felt that way about my dad.

"I'd call him all the time and I was there as much as I could be, but you always feel this sense of you didn't really capture each and every day with him.

"I wanted to feel that with my daughter. I wanted to feel and appreciate that even sleepless nights and the difficulties sometimes when she gets sick. You still appreciate those days because you don't know when it's ever going to end.

"I always thought my dad would live forever. I thought he'd be immortal, you know? Obviously we all know that's not the case. I wanted to be sure that I truly appreciate those days with my daughter.

"My dad turned the simplest little things into lifelong lessons that I will never forget. I can't wait to experience that with Sam."

Despite the estimated €150 million he has earned on and off the course since 1996, Woods is showing no signs of burnout, just an increased desire to win.

He said: "If you love what you do, then you're not going to experience burnout. I can understand if you're forced to do something you really don't want to do and you don't really have you may be good at it but you just don't like doing it, it may be a means to an end.

"But for all the people out there who have been extremely successful, they've always loved what they do, from athletes to whatever their job description is. I think if you really do have a passion for it, then you don't ever get burned out."

Target World Challenge, Sherwood Country Club, Thousand Oaks, California

Rd 1 tee times (US unless stated), all times Irish time

17:40 Fred Couples, Brett Wetterich
17:50 Vijay Singh (Fiji), Padraig Harrington (Ire)
18:00 Luke Donald (Eng), Zach Johnson
18:10 Jim Furyk, Mark Calcavecchia
18:20 Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker
18:30 Lee Westwood (Eng), Colin Montgomerie (Scot)
18:40 Niclas Fasth (Swe), Paul Casey (Eng)
18:50 Henrik Stenson(Swe), Rory Sabbatini (SA).