LA JOLLA – Tiger Woods’ eight wins at Torrey Pines notwithstanding, the 14-time major champion says he’s stepping into the unknown when he tees it up at the Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Woods said on Wednesday – and that applies not only to his own game, but also to the young rivals like defending tournament champion Jon Rahm, who have surged to the forefront as Woods recovered from spinal fusion surgery last year.
“I think yeah, my expectations have tempered a little bit because I haven’t played,” said Woods, who won the last of his majors at Torrey Pines at the 2008 US Open. “I’m going to grind it, give it everything I possibly have.”
One goal does remain a constant on Woods’ horizon.
“I’m just trying to build toward April,” Woods said. “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.
“From ’96 on it’s been that way – to try to get ready for Augusta and there’s no reason to change that.”
Woods is playing his first US PGA Tour event since missing the cut at last year’s Farmers Insurance Open.
Sidelined all of 2016 as he battled back trouble, Woods laid out an ambitious early-season schedule last year.
But that comeback bid foundered after he withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic in February with back spasms after a first-round 77.
He had season-ending surgery in April.
"I'm very excited about where I'm at now." pic.twitter.com/zNoujMElXv
This year, Woods said, things are different, because he’s no longer managing back pain.
“There’s no pain, I’m not flinching, it doesn’t hurt as I take the club back, it doesn’t hurt right before impact, it doesn’t hurt after impact, it doesn’t hurt when I walk,” Woods said.
“It was a tough go for a while, and I don’t have any of those feelings. So yeah, I can let it go, I can hit it and I’m getting the ball out there a little bit.
“I’m starting to hit some shots, I’m starting to shape the golf ball again and now I’ve got to start doing it in a tournament, hitting the shapes, the shots, those numbers.
“It’s going to take a little time, but I’m looking forward to it.”