La Jolla - Tiger Woods's eight wins at Torrey Pines
notwithstanding, the 14-time major champion says he's stepping into the unknown
when he tees it up at the Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday.
"I don't know what to expect," Woods said
Wednesday - and that applies not only to his own game but also to the young
rivals like defending tournament champion Jon Rahm who have surged to the
forefront as Woods recovered from spinal fusion surgery last year.
"I think my expectations have tempered a little bit
because I haven't played," said Woods, who won the last of his majors at
Torrey Pines at the 2008 US Open - an epic playoff victory over Rocco Mediate
despite playing with a damaged left knee and stress fractures in his leg.
"I'm going to grind it, give it everything I possibly
have," added Woods, who looked relaxed and confident as he prepared for
his first official US PGA Tour event since missing the cut at Torrey Pines last
Woods said he's no longer playing with the threat of the
back pain that cut short his comeback bid last year - after he'd missed all of
the 2016 season.
"I haven't felt this good in years so I'm excited about
it," Woods said.
"There's no pain. I'm not flinching, it doesn't hurt as
I take the club back, it doesn't hurt right before impact, it doesn't hurt
after impact, it doesn't hurt when I walk.
"I can let it go, I can hit it and I'm getting the ball
out there a little bit.
"I'm starting to hit some shots, I'm starting to shape
the golf ball again and now I've got to start doing it in a tournament, hitting
the shapes, the shots, those numbers."
Curiosity as to whether Woods can make this latest comeback
stick has put the 42-year-old squarely in the spotlight this week, even as
23-year-old Rahm chases a victory that could see him supplant Dustin Johnson
atop the world rankings.
"I think everyone is intrigued to see," four-time
major champion Rory McIlroy said at the Dubai Desert Classic. "Even
scrolling through Instagram this morning and seeing some of the clips from
yesterday, seeing how he's swinging, seeing how he's moving - I think everyone
wants to see how he gets on."
Reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia, also in Dubai,
sounded a cautious note.
"In my opinion, it's a big question mark to see how
he's going to be able to do physically," Garcia said.
But Woods said that since his encouraging outing in the
unofficial Hero World Challenge in December, he's been honing his game at home,
playing up to six days a week.
He is still adjusting to some decreased flexibility. His
decision to forge ahead without a swing coach came about simply because he
didn't know of anyone with enough familiarity with his situation to be of help.
"I'd like to meet somebody who can swing it over 120
miles an hour with a fused back," he said. "No one understands
He acknowledged that Torrey Pines, playing firm and fast in
the midst of a dry California winter, would make for a challenging return to
"I've got to start somewhere," he said as he
prepared to take the first step on a path he hopes will lead him back to the
I'm just trying to build toward April," said Woods, a
four-time Masters champion who hasn't played at Augusta National since 2015.
"I'm looking forward to playing a full schedule and getting ready for the
Masters and I haven't done that in a very long time."