Tiger Woods famously said “winning takes care of everything,” but that expectation seems to have been reigned in a bit as he makes his first official PGA Tour start since last year’s Farmers Insurance Open.
While Woods struggled to a missed cut last year at Torrey Pines, his fusion surgery has the 7-time Farmers champ looking primed for a sustained return to competitive golf. Even though Woods allowed during his Wednesday press conference that he needs to pull back his expectations initially, his early-season goals all point towards Magnolia Lane.
Tiger Woods already has an eye on the Masters: ‘I’m just trying to build towards April’ https://t.co/0pfMAX3n1n
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 24, 2018
“My expectations have tempered a little bit because I haven’t played,” said Woods, 42, who will play in a sanctioned tournament for just the 21st time since the first of his four back surgeries in 2014. “When I came back off my ACL injury in ’08 and started playing in ’09, it was nine months, but I had played a full schedule prior to that. I haven’t played a full schedule since 2015. It’s been a long time.
“To be honest with you, I just want to start playing on the tour and getting into a rhythm of playing a schedule again. I haven’t done that in such a long time, so I don’t know what to expect. I’m going to grind it, give it everything I possibly have; if I put the ball in the right position and make some putts and try to work my way up the board.”
Woods looked surprisingly good in his first tournament in 10 months when he shot three rounds in the 60s and tied for ninth last month at the Hero World Challenge.
But the Albany Club in the Bahamas is a resort course with wide fairways and coquina sand in place of deep rough. Woods could swing freely. Tighter fairways and deep rough can lead to numerous challenges he did not face there.
“I can look at different scenarios last week,” Woods said. “If I would have come back and played last week [at the CareerBuilder Challenge in Palm Springs], the conditions are easier, but you have to shoot 6-under-par a day. Here it’s difficult conditions and we’re going to be making a lot of pars. Either scenario would have been difficult.
“I haven’t played and I’ve got to start somewhere and try and get my game and my feel back. I just haven’t really played tournament golf, basically since Wyndham [Championship] in 2015. It’s been a long time, and so I just want some starts. I want to start feeling what it feels like to be out here and hit shots, grind out scores, and that’s something that I’ve been looking forward to.”
This tournament and next month’s Genesis Open at Riviera are the only events Woods has committed to so far. If all goes well, you can expect him to add the Honda Classic and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which would give four starts prior to the Masters, which he has not played since 2015.
“I’m just trying to build towards April,” Woods said. “That’s what I told you guys in the Bahamas, and I’m looking forward to playing a full schedule and getting ready for the Masters, and I haven’t done that in a very long time. That’s usually been my schedule and my outlook.”
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