Tiger Woods probably couldn’t have picked a better tournament or course for his latest comeback to the PGA Tour.
The 42-year-old Woods will make his first start on the circuit since his fourth back surgery in recent years when he tees it up in Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open on the South Course at Torrey Pines in La Jolla.
“I love Torrey Pines and really enjoy playing there,” Woods said recently. “I’ve had so much success there and can’t wait to get back.”
Woods has won the tournament seven times, the last in 2013, which also is when he claimed the last of his 79 victories on the PGA Tour, winning five times that season before because his back problems became acute.
He also won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines for the last of his 14 major titles, outlasting dogged Rocco Mediate in an epic 19-hole playoff.
Woods believes if he can remain healthy he still can still equal or break Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour titles and Jack Nicklaus’ standard of 18 major championships.
Some of his peers believe it might happen after Woods showed flashes of brilliance while tying for ninth last month in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, of which he is the tournament host.
“This is a different Tiger,” McIlroy told the Belfast Telegraph. “He could stun the world again.”
Jon Rahm of Spain, who rose to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Rankings behind Dustin Johnson last week by winning the CareerBuilder Challenge on the Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, will defend his title at Torrey Pines against a field that includes Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Justin Rose of England, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day of Australia, local favorite Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and Brandt Snedeker.
But all eyes will be on Woods, whether he climbs the leaderboard, or misses the cut, as he did at Torrey Pines last year.