There are happy memories for Tiger Woods at the venue he is making his long awaited comeback to full competition golf this week.
As his career continues to be hampered by injury, Woods only managed three appearances last year but embarks on an optimistic 2018 starting with the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, a course he has won at 13 times.
That includes his 14th and most recent major title at the 2008 US Open, but the 42-year-old began an equally hopeful 2017 at this event last year and did not experience the same fortunes as years gone by. A 76 and 72 meant Woods missed the cut by three shots.
Woods made an encouraging return at his own Hero World Challenge in December finishing tied ninth in an 18-man field; before that his only full-field results in 2017 were a withdrawal and the missed cut here.Embed from Getty Images
His Farmers Insurance Open record, however, is undeniable. In his first 13 starts at this event Woods made 12 top 10s, 11 top fives, nine top threes and seven wins including four-in-a-row between 2005 and 2008. That makes Woods this event’s most successful player by four clear wins over Phil Mickelson, who is making his 29th start in this event this week. Woods also matched the tournament’s aggregate and to-par record scores of 266 (-22) in 1999.
The expectations of Woods are varying with many claiming he is swinging the club well enough to win numerous times in 2018, with others in belief that it might be right for him to call it time on the most remarkable career in golfing history.
For all the focus on Woods this week, though, attention will be given to defending-champion Jon Rahm who is looking to go back-to-back at this event and back-to-back this season after claiming his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge last week. The Spaniard is now up to second in the world, less than a year after being outside the world’s top 125.Embed from Getty Images
To claim his first career title here last year, that began a year of three total titles, Rahm sunk a 60-foot eagle putt on the 72nd hole, making him five-under for his final six holes, to consolidate a three-stroke victory with a final round of 67.
Woods and Rahm will be joined in the field by other past winners in three-time champion Mickelson (1993, 2000 and 2001), two-time champion Brandt Snedeker (2012 and 2016), Jason Day (2015), Scott Stallings (2014), Ben Crane (2010) and Nick Watney (2009).
And Rahm and Day are joined by stars Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman, Alex Noren, Brian Harman, Francesco Molinari, Charley Hoffman and Patrick Reed from inside the world’s top 25, whilst PGA Tour Rookie-of-the-Year Xander Schauffele is hoping to better his missed cut from last year.
The field take on two courses this week. The first two rounds are divided between the 7258-yard North course and the traditionally more challenging 7698-yard South course, before the final two rounds after the cut take to the South course alone.Embed from Getty Images
The North course has been strengthened under renovation to bring it up to the level of the South course and could now be just as challenging as its counterpart. One thing’s for sure, this two courses make this event one of the most challenging on Tour with 20-under-par not being broken since the turn of the century and 10-under-par only being broken once in the last four years.
The odds have been heavily placed against Woods with bookmakers favouring him missing the cut than making it, but if ever there was a time that Woods performs, it is against the odds.