San Diego - Tiger Woods is excited to play his first US golf tournament in 17 months at familiar Torrey Pines and teeing off on Thursday alongside Jason Day and Dustin Johnson adds to the thrill.
The 14-time major winner, an eight-time winner at the famed Southern California course, plays his first full-field event since August of 2015 at the US PGA Farmers Insurance Open after playing in the Bahamas last month.
"It's hard to remember when I was this excited because I hadn't played in a few years. It has been a few seasons since I was in this position," Woods said on Wednesday.
"I'm really looking forward to (Thursday)."
Woods, who turned 41 last month, has won at Torrey Pines eight times, including the 2008 US Open, the most recent of his major titles. He noted several changes in the layout in a practice round on the eve of the opening round.
"Just overall it felt very good to get out there and play," Woods said. "They've added a little bit of length to it. The greens are absolutely perfect."
Woods, who will play four of the next five weeks, says his main goal is to peak for the year's first major tournament, the Masters in April at Augusta National, where he has won four times, most recently in 2005.
"I'm looking forward to getting off to and playing and trying to keep improving and getting my game better, more consistent, rounding into form and making my way to that first full week in April and getting everything ready for that," Woods said.
"I miss trying to beat these guys, I really do. We're a fraternity out here. We see each other all year and some of us have seen each other for decades out here. It's just fun to be competitive and fun to go out there and compete at the highest level and against the best."
Playing alongside Australia's Day, the world No 1, and third-ranked Johnson, the reigning US Open champion, adds to Woods' joy because it lets him measure his rebuilding game against the sport's best quickly.
"I couldn't be happier," Woods said. "To get a couple of the best players, and Jason being the best player in the world right now, man, it's going to be a lot of fun. You always want to play against and with the best players."
'I'LL PLAY MY GAME'
Woods will surrender the longest drive distance fight to his rivals.
"Those guys will bomb it out there, that's fine. I'll just play my game and the name of the game is low score. It's not a long drive contest," Woods said. "It's a different game. I'm longer now than I've ever been, but it's all relative. Everybody's bombing it out there now."
Woods, who announced an equipment endorsement deal with TaylorMade on Wednesday, has been unable to practice as long or as hard as in younger days, in part because of the back operations. So he is as much in the dark about how he measures up as his fans.
"I haven't played a full schedule in a very long time, so this is an unknown," Woods said. "So one of the reasons why I'm playing four out of five (weeks) is to get into the playing rhythm of playing competitive golf again. I've been away from it for so long."
The unseasonably chilly conditions in California, which has been battered by storms, had also come as a surprise.
"I had four layers on and I was still cold," Woods said. "I used to be able to handle this kind of cold weather but now I'm a Florida softie. I'm used to practicing in shorts and no shirt in my backyard all the time."