Tiger sets TOUR return at Farmers Insurance Open
He also announces plan to play Genesis Open at Riviera
January 04, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- January 04, 2018
- Tiger Woods is determined to resume his domination at Torrey Pines. (Ryan Young/PGA TOUR)
Tiger Woods will make his 2017-18 season debut at the Farmers Insurance Open, Jan. 25-28. It will mark the first time in a year that Woods has played an official PGA TOUR event.
Woods made the announcement Thursday on his Twitter account, adding that he also plans to play the Genesis Open at L.A.’s Riviera Country Club three weeks later. Last season marked the first in which the Genesis benefitted the Tiger Woods Foundation.
It will be Woods' first appearance at Riviera since 2006. As a 16-year-old amateur, Woods made his first PGA TOUR start in 1992 at Riviera, competing on a sponsor’s exemption.
“I’m very excited to be back at Riviera,” Woods said in a press release issued by the tournament. “I haven’t played at Riviera in a tournament in a very long time. To be able to play in an event that I used to come to as an amateur, as a junior and now as the tournament host, that is on one of the most historic sites in all of golf, it’s a dream come true.”
The Farmers news was widely expected, given Woods’ success at Torrey Pines, where his nine total victories include seven at the Farmers (including four straight from 2005 through ’08); the 2008 U.S. Open in a playoff over Rocco Mediate; and the Junior World at age 15.
“It’s awesome,” Farmers Insurance Open tournament director Peter Ripa told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “There’s a feeling that this comeback is different, with the eye test we got at the Hero World Challenge. He hit shots, he looked strong. There’s a national anticipation for this.”
When he steps to the tee at Torrey, Woods will be making his first official TOUR start since shooting 76-72 to miss the cut at the 2017 Farmers. He has been limited by four operations on his back in just over three years, the last and most comprehensive of which was spinal fusion surgery last April.
Woods returned to competition at the unofficial Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, Nov. 30-Dec. 3, and tied for ninth in the 18-man field, turning heads with his competitiveness and distance off the tee.
“I’ve never seen him happier with life, with everything,” reigning FedExCup champion Justin Thomas said recently. As fellow residents of Jupiter, Florida, Thomas and Rickie Fowler have been playing regular practice rounds with Woods. Thomas, 24, played with Woods, 41, in the first and last rounds at the Hero, and lost to him by one.
Asked after that final round about Woods returning to TOUR competition, Thomas replied, “It's just so weird to say that you're excited for somebody else's year, but it will be a fun year and I hope we duel it out a lot.”
Fowler shot a final-round 61 to win and said Woods had, “sharpened me up a little bit.”
At the Hero, as with so much of golf over the last two decades, all roads led back to Woods. The 79-time PGA TOUR winner showed almost no signs of the chipping problems that plagued him in 2015. He also outdrove younger pros like Thomas and Patrick Reed; briefly held the second-round lead; and looked so renewed that he got raves from even some of his toughest critics, including his former coach Hank Haney and Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee.
“I like what I’m seeing out of Tiger right now,” Haney told SiriuxXM PGA TOUR Radio. “It is just good stuff. He looks healthy. He’s got great clubhead speed. He’s hitting phenomenal shots. He’s hitting as good shots as anybody.”
Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava also was impressed.
“I was a little bit surprised,” LaCava said midway through the tournament. “I think everyone was hoping for the best, but it was definitely better than we thought. The power and speed and length he’s hitting it – I didn’t think it would come this quick.”
To be sure, Woods’ comeback promises to be a long climb, and there are no guarantees. He hasn’t been healthy enough to play in the Masters since 2015, and even LaCava warned against unrealistic expectations.
Woods’ top-10 finish in the Bahamas moved him up in the Official World Golf Ranking, but only to 668th. And while he showed flashes of form at the 2016 Hero, too, and planned a big comeback in 2017, it never happened. The 14-time major winner never looked right at the Farmers, failing to make the weekend, then flew to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and opened with a 5-over 77 before he withdrew prior to his second-round tee time. He abandoned plans to play in the Genesis Open and The Honda Classic, and underwent spinal fusion in April.
“If he stays healthy, I really do think he’ll have a great year,” Thomas said. “We’re just going to have to wait and find out.”