Tiger returns to Torrey Pines with eyes set on record 83rd win
January 21, 2020
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods' top-20 shots at Farmers Insurance Open
LA JOLLA, Calif. – It is fitting that Tiger Woods’ first opportunity to set the PGA TOUR wins record comes at Torrey Pines.
He’s won eight times at this course perched on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, tying his own record for most wins at a single site. The 2008 U.S. Open remains one of the most memorable performances of his career, and was his most recent major triumph until he won last year’s Masters.
Even if he doesn’t win, Woods will pass one milestone this week.
He’s playing the first two rounds alongside Collin Morikawa and Jon Rahm. Morikawa was born in February 1997, after Woods had already won the first three of his 82 titles. Thursday will mark the first time Woods has played in a PGA TOUR event with a player who was born after Woods turned pro.
“In order to be a good player or be considered a good player in football, maybe you can get to a decade of playing in the league. Here, we’re measured by decades,” Woods said in Tuesday’s pre-tournament press conference. “It’s a different sport but it’s neat to see the young kids come out. I’ve only seen Collin hit balls, never had a chance to play with him until this week.”
This is Woods’ first official stroke-play start since winning THE ZOZO Championship in Japan to tie Sam Snead’s record of 82 victories. Woods hasn’t been seen since his impressive performance as the playing captain for the United States’ Presidents Cup team. Woods went 3-0 as the U.S. Team made a Sunday comeback at Royal Melbourne. Woods’ precise iron play on the Alister Mackenzie layout was one of the highlights of the week. He was the first playing captain since Snead 60 years earlier to go undefeated in a professional team competition and lead his team to victory.
After leaving Australia, Woods didn’t pick up a club until playing on his birthday with his son, Charlie. The celebratory round was an annual tradition between Tiger and his father, Earl.
“I just wanted to get away from it,” Woods said Tuesday. “I was a little bit fried physically, mentally, emotionally and just wanted to have it all end.”
Woods, who turned 44 on Dec. 30, said that he now has “more bad days than I do good days” physically. Fred Couples said in a post-Presidents Cup interview that Woods sat out the third day at Royal Melbourne because his body wouldn’t allow him to compete.
“It’s hard to put it together for all four days as you get older,” Woods said. “It’s just harder.”
This week, he’ll face a long Torrey Pines South Course that underwent a recent renovation to prepare for next year’s U.S. Open. Woods has won this event seven times, but it’s been seven years since his last triumph at Torrey Pines. He’s finished T23 and T20 in the past two years, shooting par or better in all eight rounds.
The long layout with its thick rough was a perfect venue for Woods to showcase his strength, one of his biggest assets during his prime. Woods, who ranks 18th in this season’s FedExCup, now has to rely on precision and his accurate iron play.
“I don’t have the ability to hit the ball as far as I used to compared to the field. … I was one of two guys to hit the ball over 300 yards consistently when I first came out here. Now we’ve got 50-plus guys doing the same thing,” Woods said. “It’s just a different ballgame but at the end of the day it’s how many birdies and how many mistakes can you eliminate throughout a round, throughout a tournament that will lead you to a win. Hopefully that will be the case for me this week.”
If it is, Woods will sit alone atop the PGA TOUR’s all-time wins list.
Tiger Woods on his health before the Farmers Insurance Open