DUBAI, Jan 31 (Reuters) - People should not read too much into Tiger Woods's disastrous performance at the Phoenix Open, according to his close friend and fellow former British Open champion Darren Clarke.
The American 14-times major winner and former world number one slumped to a second-round 82 on Friday, his worst score since turning professional in 1996.
Clarke himself has struggled since winning golf's oldest Major in 2011 at Royal St. Georges.
The 46-year old Northern Irishman, who is widely tipped to become Europe's next Ryder Cup captain, has not had a top-10 in 55 events on the European Tour since lifting the Claret Jug.
"It would be wrong to read any more into how Tiger player in Phoenix other than to say that any time you make major swing changes in your game you are going to have to crawl before you walk," Clarke told Reuters on Saturday.
"It may be fine on the practice range but you only find out what's really happening in your game in competition.
"If Tiger makes changes in his game then he does so for a reason," Clarke added.
"He's the best player in the world and his perseverance and dedication will ensure you'll find him back up at the pointed end of a leaderboard and not down at the bottom.
"So I am not at all surprised or shocked as that would be foolish, and if you're making changes in your game then you're making changes.
"He'll be fine. He's too good a player not to be." (Editing by Ed Osmond)