Tiger Woods faces big test at a happy hunting ground
Former world number one returns to Torrey Pines for Farmers Insurance Open
Tiger Woods tees off the 11th hole during the pro-am for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California. Photograph: Donald Miralle/Getty Images
Tiger Woods will face the biggest test of his comeback at one of his favourite hunting grounds when he contests his first PGA Tour event since 2015 this week.
Woods has won the Farmers Insurance Open, formerly the Buick Invitational, seven times and also won the last of his 14 Major titles – the 2008 US Open – at tournament venue Torrey Pines.
The former world number one’s last PGA Tour appearance was a tie for 10th in the Wyndham Championship in August 2015, after which he underwent two bouts of surgery on his back.
The 41-year-old returned to action in early December at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, where he finished 15th in the 17-man field despite making 24 birdies, the same as tournament winner Hideki Matsuyama.
“I’m looking forward to getting out and competing with those guys,” said Woods, who on Wednesday announced he had signed a deal to use TaylorMade equipment. “I’ve missed playing. I’ve missed competing and I’m coming back to one of my favourite venues and looking forward to it.”
Woods admits playing four of the next five weeks – including a long trip to the Middle East for the Dubai Desert Classic, is a concern, but does not feel he has anything to prove.
“I’ve won a few times on Tour and a few Majors,” Woods added. “I know either way I’ll be a part of golf history with what I’ve done. I’m just looking forward to competing and playing again.
“You keep building, keep progressing and getting used to playing tournament golf again. I’ve played a lot at home, but it’s different than being out here at our level and playing against these guys and the flow of playing tournament golf. I’ve been away from it for a very long time.
“I need to have my health at a state where I can prepare and get my game ready to play at an elite level. When I feel that way, I know I can shoot scores and win golf tournaments.”
The tournament marks the return to action of both Shane Lowry and Pádraig Harrington after long winter breaks, while Séamus Power is also teeing it up in California.
England’s Andrew Johnston is also in the field and is looking forward to finally playing in the same event as 79-time PGA Tour winner Woods.
“Every time I’ve played, unfortunately he hasn’t,” Johnston said. “Hopefully I can meet him and say hello and stuff, get to know him a bit because I’m a big fan and obviously watched him for years growing up as a kid.”
Johnston, who will play the first few months of the season on the PGA Tour before returning to Europe for the BMW PGA Championship in May, added: “Last year I got put in a position where I was going back and forth.
“At one point I went from Pittsburgh to Germany back to Bridgestone to Scotland and that was hard work. So if I want to play, I want to be out here for like a month or a month (in Europe) and make sure I’m playing a few tournaments at a time.”