Tiger Woods will make his first full-field debut on the PGA Tour in a year on Thursday at Torrey Pines and he’s already showing signs that the 2018 return will go much better than the one he launched a year ago.
Showing up on Tuesday to the course he’s won on eight times — seven Farmers Insurance Opens and the 2008 U.S. Open — gave a little glimpse into the progress he’s made in the past year. Prior to last year’s missed cut at Torrey, Woods only played in the Wednesday Pro-Am before traveling to Dubai where he would eventually withdraw and shut things down for the season.
— Steve DiMeglio (@Steve_DiMeglio) January 23, 2018
Woods arrived in darkness before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, warmed up in 45-degree temperatures and then was on the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South course 30 minutes later for a nine-hole practice round with Jason Day and Bryson DeChambeau.
The 14-time major champion will be making his first official start on the PGA Tour since missing the cut at this tournament a year ago at the Farmers Insurance Open, which begins Thursday.
After a fourth back surgery in April, Woods, 42, returned to competitive golf last month in the Bahamas, where he had a surprisingly good performance, shooting three rounds in the 60s and tying for ninth in the limited-field, unofficial tournament.
Woods was cleared to begin taking full golf swings only in October.
“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did a pretty good in that prep time,” Woods said during a brief interview on the course. “Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”
Woods said he’s tried to balance being careful with overdoing his preparation with his need to get ready. After the Hero, Woods took a little downtime. But he took part in a clinic at a golf course he designed in Mexico before the holidays, then got busy after the first of the year.
Last week his caddie, Joe LaCava, joined him for four days in Florida, and Woods put in a good bit of work on the course Tuesday during the nine-hole practice round. He will play in the pro-am on Wednesday on the North course. (The tournament uses two courses for the first 36 holes.)
Woods’ first-round tee time is 1:40 p.m. ET, with Charley Hoffman and Patrick Reed.
“I’m trying to build in golf endurance,” he said. “So I’m hitting a lot of golf balls and building up my endurance. You have to do it. You have to beat balls for a little bit of time to build up your endurance and muscles. I feel like I’ve done that and now it’s time to play a tournament.”
This will be just the 21st worldwide start for Woods since the first of his four back surgeries in March of 2014. He is ranked 657th in the world.
“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day said. “You take [Farmers] last year and the Dubai tournament [where he withdrew] out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s doing to come back and win straight away.
“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”
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