January 24, 2018

Tiger Returns to Torrey

LA JOLLA, Calif. – After an encouraging ninth place showing last month at the Hero World Challenge at the Albany Club in the Bahamas, Tiger Woods is ready for the next step.

On Thursday, Woods will play in a PGA Tour event for the first time in a year, returning to the $6.9 million Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course. He missed the cut last year, played one round at the Dubai Desert Classic the following week, then shut it down for the rest of the year to deal with severe back and leg pain.

Last April, Woods underwent his fourth back operation since 2014. The spinal fusion procedure was a success and he is now pain-free.

“I’m very excited about where I’m at now,” the 42-year-old Woods said Wednesday after shooting a 2-under 70 in the pro-am on the North Course. “I haven’t felt this good in years.”

A winner of 79 PGA Tour wins and 14 major championships, Woods has ramped up his play and practice sessions since the Hero, focusing on endurance and muscle tone. He’s also made a few swing changes.

“Now it’s time to play a tournament,” he said.

Why Torrey? For starters, he has an enviable record. Not only has he finished first seven times, Woods also won the 2008 U.S. Open, edging Rocco Mediate in a playoff. In addition, Woods owns a Junior World Championship.

“I’ve got to start somewhere and try and get my game and feels back,” said Woods.

He begins the 2018 season full of optimism. Woods is healthy, relaxed, and hungry to test his game against the best players in the world.

He’s also more appreciative. A year ago, Woods wasn’t sure if he would play competitive golf again, calling the fusion surgery, “The only step I had left.”

On Tuesday, Woods played a nine-hole practice round with good pal Jason Day and rising young star Bryson DeChambeau. Day was impressed with Woods’ swing, clubhead speed, length off the tee and touch, but reminded fans to be patient.

“He hasn’t really played in two years,” Day said. “I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.”

Woods made no secret of his desire to peak for the Masters.

“I’m just trying to build for April,” he said.

Prior to last year’s Farmers Insurance Open, Woods’ last first full-field appearance on the PGA Tour came in August of 2015 at Wyndham Championship, where he tied for 10th. That was his last top 10, and his last win came at The Players Championship in 2013, one of five that year.

After playing with Woods for the first time, DeChambeau sensed how excited he is to return.

“His passion is there,” he said. “If he gets it going, it’s going to be scary for everybody again.”

Woods begins first round play on the South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET with Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman. On Friday, they play the North Course at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Both courses are playing firm and fast.

“It’s going to be a challenge this week,” Woods said. “But I want to start feeling what it’s like to be out there and hit shots and grind out scores. This is something I’ve been looking forward to.”

The first two rounds will be televised on the Golf Channel from 3-7 p.m. ET. Saturday coverage runs from 2-3:30 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel, then moves to CBS from 4-7 p.m. On Sunday, Golf Channel coverage goes from 1-2:45 p.m. ET, then shifts to CBS from 3-6:30 p.m.