Tiger Woods smiles after winning the ZOZO Championship in Japan last October for his 82nd PGA Tour … [+]
An upbeat Tiger Woods was back at Torrey Pines Golf Course and why wouldn’t he be smiling?
“I have always enjoyed coming down here to Torrey Pines,’’ Woods said before this week’s $7.5 million Farmers Insurance Open. “I played here in junior golf and obviously played well as a professional.’’
Some joke that Tiger Pines or Torrey Woods would be a more fitting moniker for this seaside municipal track which Woods has dominated for ages.
His greatest triumph was his dramatic comeback win in a playoff for the 2008 U.S. Open over Rocco Mediate. That epic triumph is wedged nicely along with the seven times he’s won the regular PGA stop here.
Now he’s starting another year and Thursday’s first round will be different. For the first time, Woods is paired with someone, Collin Morikawa, who was born (February, 1997) after Woods turned pro.
“It means I’ve been out here a long time,’’ Woods, 44, said.
The game has changed as well as Woods’ body which has often revolted from his longevity and aggressive style. While he can still produce the prodigious 300-yard drives, he’s no longer sitting at a table of one in being able to deliver them.
“Now we’ve got 50-plus guys doing the same thing,’’ he 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 to a win.’’
If Woods is hoisting the traditional surfboard which goes to Sunday’s winner, he’ll be riding a unique wave of success. It would mark his 83rd career PGA Tour triumph, which would better Sam Snead’s mark by one.
For most of Woods’ career the number he’s been chasing his Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors. Woods has 15 after claiming last year’s Masters.
Reaching either milestone is impressive and to get there requires a similar approach.
“It’s being able to win consistently and win a lot,’’ Woods said. “I think in the course of my career I’ve won about five times in a year like 10 times. So you’ve got to get them in bunches if you want to get to 82 total.
“I think winning breeds winning. When I won other golf tournaments, I felt more confident going into major championships and I was able to take off some of the majors because of it.’’
He’s coming off a sensational 2019 in which he led the U.S. to the Presidents Cup crown by going 3-0 as the captain and he claimed another green jacket. Woods also won the ZOZO Championship in Japan for win No 82.
It’s appropriate that he aims for No. 83 at a layout in which he’s prevailed eight times. He hasn’t won more on any other course.
The kid that once tagged along with his father at this venerable PGA Tour stop is eager to christen another year.
“My dad brought me down here when it was the old Andy Williams,’’ Woods said. “So it’s been near and dear to my heart for a number of years.’’
No. 83 is a possibility for the first time and now No. 18 no longer seems so unobtainable.