Tuesday 20 February 2018

Woods returns to scene of his last major victory

Mark Garrod

AFTER the shock of his missed cut in Abu Dhabi last Friday Tiger Woods returns to the scene of his last major win, five years ago, this week.

Torrey Pines near San Diego, the venue for the Farmers Insurance Open, is also where Woods has claimed six more of his 74 PGA Tour titles and before that six world junior titles between the ages of eight and 15.

When told that the 37-year-old world number two had an average of 68.6 in nearly 50 Tour rounds at the venue, defending champion Brandt Snedeker said: "That's just phenomenal - I mean, that's stupid.

"If you shoot even par on the South Course you're doing great.

"Any time Tiger has a record I put an asterisk by it because it's Tiger's record. It's not normal."

Snedeker did not have to beat Woods last year. This is only his second time back since he won the 2008 US Open with two stress fractures in one leg and a knee so bad he underwent reconstructive surgery straight afterward and did not play for eight months.

"He's so great for the game of golf," said Ryder Cup team-mate and FedEx Cup winner Snedeker.

"We're so fortunate to have him back and playing well. He adds a little bit more electricity to the tournament.

"There are certain guys when they walk into a room people gravitate towards them. Greg Norman had that same magnetism, Phil (Mickelson) does and these guys really move the needle on the game of golf."

Woods, whose early exit in the Middle East was the result of a two-stroke penalty for a wrong drop in his second round, believes his game is good enough to close the gap on Jack Nicklaus's 18-major record this season.

"Absolutely," said the man who will next try to take his own tally to 15 in the US Masters at Augusta in April.

"I would have to say the majority of last year I hit it pretty good, but my putting and short game weren't quite there.

"That finally came around, so towards the end of the season I was able to spend more time with my chipping and putting and that's come around. Now I've got to marry up both of those two combos."

As for this week, Woods added: "The course is on the quick side - it's drier than we normally play it, so it will be a wonderful test."

While he plays his first round on the South Course alongside Nick Watney and Rickie Fowler, over on the easier North lay-out Phil Mickelson tees off with Snedeker and Masters champion Bubba Watson.

Mickelson spoke out about the tax situation in California after finishing 37th at La Quinta on Sunday, but then said in a statement he should have kept his thoughts private.

"I moved out of here back in '96 for that reason," said Woods, now a Florida resident.

Belgian Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts starts his new life as a PGA Tour member this week, a week later than English pair David Lynn and Ross Fisher.

Lynn missed the cut at the Humana Challenge, but Fisher came back from an opening 74 to finish 56th thanks to a 65 and two 67s.

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