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Tiger Woods happy with 2003 performance

Tiger Woods is content with his performances in 2003, despite ending the year without a major for the first time since 1998.

The world number one, whose last grand slam victory came at the U.S. Open 15 months ago, has won four times in 16 starts this season, and is one of six leading contenders for PGA Tour player of the year honours.

"If you had asked me at the start of the year if I would be satisfied with four victories, without a doubt the answer would have been yes," the 27-year-old American said on his official website.

"I honestly didn't know if I would be able to play during the West Coast (California) Swing (in January-February) after my off-season knee surgery.

"I knew I could play in pain -- I just didn't know if the knee would hold up. More than anything, I just tried to prepare myself for (the U.S. Masters at) Augusta (where he tied for 15th)."

Woods, whose best finish in this year's majors was a tie for fourth at the British Open in July, has played a limited schedule this year following knee surgery last December.

He was out of action for all of January, but then won three times in his first four starts in the United States and believes he is now in the best condition of his life.

"My leg strength and stability are stronger than they have ever been," he said. "I haven't quite hit as many balls (in practice) as I normally would because we're still being conservative with it."

Although Woods has produced 10 top-10 finishes in 16 tournaments this year and leads the PGA Tour stroke averages on 68.28, he has been frustrated by talk that he has been in a slump this season.

However, the eight-times major champion has set such extraordinarily high standards since turning professional in 1996, that even he struggles to meet the expectations heaped on him by the media and public.

"I think, overall, this entire year has been very consistent," he said before last month's U.S. PGA Championship at Oak Hill, where he tied for 39th.

"I haven't really got going with anything, but I've been very consistent. My game's been very solid.

"But it's kind of harsh to say it's been a bad year when I've won four times. Everyone's been on me for how bad I've played this year. Christ, I've won four times."

The best Woods can now hope for before the end of 2003 is a strong showing at next month's WGC-American Express Championship and the season-ending Tour Championship to cement his claims for a fifth successive PGA Tour player of the year title.

He is vying with world number three Davis Love III, U.S. Masters champion Mike Weir, U.S. Open winner Jim Furyk, world number two Ernie Els and Kenny Perry for the accolade, but would need to win at least one of those two events to forge clear.

"At the beginning the year, it's always one of my goals to be player of the year because it means getting the respect of your peers," said Woods. "That's the ultimate compliment."

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