LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — Tiger Woods said Tuesday that he can't explain his Jekyll-and-Hyde 2012 season, which has seen him win three events — more than any player this year — but also miss two cuts and finish in the middle of the pack at the year's first two majors.
"If I knew the answer I'd tell you, but I don't," Woods said, shrugging his shoulders. "I just keep trying to work and keep trying to get better. And I've had a few wins this year, which is good. But also I've had a few poor performances, as well. So I'm just trying to get better, get more consistent."
On Thursday, Woods will tee off at 4:26 a.m. Eastern time in the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, where he will have another chance to nab his 15th major championship. Woods has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, but he said that he has no anxiety about winning another.
"I just try and put myself there," Woods said. "I think that if I continue putting myself there enough times, then I'll win major championships."
He said that winning a major is harder than ever because of the depth of talent in the game, noting that the last 15 majors have had 15 different winners.
"The fields are deeper, there's no doubt, and we're having to shoot some pretty low scores in general," Woods said. "But I think that you need to have a hot week at the right time. That's what it comes down to. 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."
Royal Lytham & St. Annes does hold some good memories for Woods. He's played at Open Championships here twice before, in 2001, when he finished T25, and as a 20-year-old in 1996, when he finished T21 and was low amateur.
"I remember I got hot in that second round — I think I made seven birdies on an 11-hole stretch or 12-hole stretch there," Woods recalled when asked about the 1996 Open. "I think I posted 66 that day."
That week in 1996 was also when he realized he was ready for the PGA Tour.
"The Open Championship that year basically I thought pushed me towards turning pro versus going back to college," Woods 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, I could shoot those scores and I could play against the top players in the world on a very difficult track. And later that summer I ended up winning the Amateur."
After playing his third practice round of the week at Lytham early Tuesday morning, Woods said he thought the course would play much differently this week than it had in 2001 and 1996, a result of England's heavy rainfall this summer.
"The two years that I played we didn't see it like this, this is different," Woods said. "The rough is more lush. The fairways are softer. The ball is not chasing as much. This is different.
"It's a slower golf course, but still, nonetheless, it has some mounding in it," Woods said. "The bunkers are penal. And it's just something that we as players are just going to have to just plod our way around."
The slower course means that Woods will have a different game plan than the one he famously employed at the 2006 British Open at Hoylake, where he pummeled the course into submission without ever hitting his driver. Woods won the tournament by five strokes that year.
"It's not exactly the same game plan, no," Woods said of his approach to Royal Lytham. "Got to hit probably a few more 3-woods and drivers here than I did then. At Hoylake, on the downwind holes I was hitting 3- and 4-irons almost 300 yards at times, just because it's so fast and it was blowing.
"But this is different," Woods said. "The bunkers are staggered differently here. There's some forced carries to where you have to force it and then stop it or try and skirt past them. You can't just either lay it up or bomb over the top. There has to be some shape to shots."
A links golf enthusiast, Woods recently said on his website that the British Open was his favorite major, because of its history — it's been contested since 1860 — but mostly because of the creativity and shot-making the Open's links courses demand.
"Everything is magnified," Woods said of links golf. "On the ground if you hit a draw versus a fade, it doesn't just go five yards further, it can go possibly 30, 40, 50 yards further. This is all something you're trying to figure out. Meanwhile, what trajectory are you going to hit the golf ball at? That's something I've always enjoyed."
When a reporter brought up Seve Ballesteros' legendary win here in 1988 over Nick Price, Woods appeared to relish talking about Ballesteros.
"His energy to see that day was different than he normally had," Woods said. "He was just into the round and he was shaping his shots, but he was holing everything. He was making putt after putt. Anything inside 15 or 20 was good. Those are special days, and he had that special day at the right time, and against a guy that was playing pretty well, too."
Woods said he remembers feeling that way as well.
"Those are fun days," Woods said. "I've experienced that on both sides. It's fun when it happens that you're on the right side of it."
An earlier version of this article said that Tiger Woods is trying to win his 14th major this week. A victory would be his 15th major championship.