Nicklaus: Woods may be playing Phoenix Open to build confidence

Jack Nicklaus never was much for playing easier golf courses. Tiger Woods isn't either. So the Golden Bear has a theory as to why the Big Cat is starting his 2015 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, held at a venue in TPC Scottsdale that yields a lot of birdies and low numbers.

"I think that sometimes I would go play tournaments early in the year that actually you did shoot some low scores because I didn’t feel like I was quite ready to challenge a difficult golf course," said Nicklaus during a conference call to promote a USGA documentary, "Nicklaus: The Making of a Champion," which will air on Fox this weekend.

"So sometimes I would go where I could build confidence in my own game. So my guess is Tiger is going to Phoenix so he can build confidence in his own game and get some self‑confidence because he hasn’t played for a long time, to now build himself back up to the more difficult courses."

Woods is making his first start at Phoenix in 14 years, with his last coming at the '01 Phoenix Open. The 14-time major winner has a good, albeit limited and dated track record at TPC Scottsdale, which is probably why Woods chose it over the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, a course on which he's never fared well, and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where six-hour rounds are commonplace.

Of course, Woods hasn't won since the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August 2013. More important than chasing an 80th PGA Tour win, however, is developing confidence in his new-but-old swing that he's developed since ending his 2014 after the PGA Championship. As Woods gets more tournament reps and his scoring improves (assuming it does), he'll feel more confident heading into the big-name events that typically dominate his schedule.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.