Tiger returns to hunt on familiar territory in the Farmers Insurance Open

Tiger Woods resumes his quest for more success, chasing Sam Snead's mark of 82 PGA TOUR victories when he tees off at the Farmers Insurance Open

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Tiger Woods will be back in action at the Farmers Insurance Open

23 January 2019: PGA TOUR Release

This year, the Rules of Golf, not his surgically-repaired back, are the biggest source of uncertainty for Tiger Woods.

That shows how far he’s come in the past 12 months.

When he arrived at last year’s Farmers Insurance Open, he didn’t know if he’d make it to the Florida Swing. He wasn’t accustomed to hitting out of the thick rough found at PGA TOUR tournaments. Woods isn’t one for moral victories, but he was proud of his 23rd-place finish here last year.

Yes, it was four months ago, but Woods is coming off a win in his previous official start.

“I know what I can do, I know what I’m feeling, so now it’s about finishing a little bit better and winning some events this year,” he said.

Woods described the new knee-high drops as “really weird.” He hopes, of course, that he won’t have to make many of them. And, like most players, he will leave the flagstick in the hole in select situations.

“It might be more advantageous when we get on faster greens, a little bit more slope, i.e., Augusta, (to) have that sense of security on a 3-, 4-footer down the hill. You can just take a cut at it,” Woods said. “But here the greens are going to be a little bit bouncy, a little bit bumpy, so who knows.”

Not that he’s had any problem with the poa annua greens on the California coast. Torrey Pines has played an outsized role in his career.

Ten percent of his 80 PGA TOUR wins have come at the course. He was undefeated here over a four-year span from 2005-08, winning this tournament four times, as well as the U.S. Open. He’s 170 under par in 17 starts at the Farmers Insurance Open.

He’s won trophies at Torrey Pines since his junior days and attended his first PGA TOUR event here.

Woods will tackle the South Course first, teeing off at 10:40 a.m. off No. 1. He’s paired with FedExCup leader Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau. It’s the first time Woods has played with either player. They know what to expect, though.

“It’s going to be a little bit bigger of a zoo than I’m used to, but I … just sort of block it all out,” Schauffele said. “I’ve already prepped with my caddie when Tiger taps in, people will be running around just to get as close to him on the next tee shot.”

A win here would pull Woods within one of Sam Snead on the all-time wins list.

“It’s cool to see him back,” said defending champion Jason Day. “It’s just interesting to see how he’ll go this year because obviously last year you’re just trying to build and build and build. … Is he going to come back out and start saying that he’s competing and playing and, ‘I’m going to win every week,’ because that’s kind of the old Tiger that I knew.”

As expected, Woods used the offseason to get stronger. He was worn out at the end of last season, after his success caused his schedule to quickly fill up with big events.

“My legs are where they need to be, which they weren’t at the end of the season,” he said.

He also reflected on his win at the TOUR Championship. He said the replay “gives me chills almost every time I see it.” Because it came at the end of the season, Woods was able to reflect on this victory more than any other in his professional career.

“I got a chance to be around my friends and my family, to hear some of the stories of how nervous they were and how emotional they were,” he said. “That was touching to me because I didn’t really expect that because I’m inside the ropes. I know what it took for me, but I didn’t know it would have affected anyone else like that.”

His pursuit of another PGA TOUR title resumes this week on familiar territory.