Expectations are back, which means so is Tiger Woods
LA JOLLA, Calif. — It’s winning time for Tiger Woods again.
A year ago, there was rampant uncertainty for Woods, who was coming off a fourth back surgery and wasn’t sure how many golf tournaments he’d be able to play, let alone finish or even win. Now there are expectations.
A year ago, Woods stood at 656th in the Official World Golf Rankings. When he plays in Thursday’s opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in his first tournament since September, Woods will walk to the tee ranked 13th in the world having won his last start, the 2018 Tour Championship.
A year ago, baby steps were more than acceptable for Woods, who found himself satisfied with gradual progress and so-so results. Now, winning is all that matters again for Woods — just the way it used to be for the player who has won 80 times in his career and glared at you if you had the gall to ask him before a tournament what his expectations were for that particular week.
Woods no longer carries that arrogant edge he used to, at least not publicly. He’s been humbled both by his physical ailments and thoughts of never being able to compete again. And, by the way, he’s been embraced by the fans during his comeback from a real-life abyss.
But make no mistake: At age 43, and with the window slowly closing, Woods knows he’s got to win now while he’s healthy.
“There is some momentum from last year because there’s a better understanding of what I can do,’’ Woods said Tuesday after playing a 10-hole practice round with Jordan Spieth. “Going into this event last year, I really didn’t know. And the fact that I was able to get through, I didn’t have any zinging down my leg like I did before, I didn’t have any problems at night recovering for the next day, even though I finished 30th or 25th, whatever the hell I finished [23rd], those were big accomplishments for me.
“Now, this year it’s totally different. I know what I can do, I know what I’m feeling. So now it’s about finishing a little bit better and winning some events this year.’’
Woods has competed at Torrey Pines 17 times. He has seven wins and a dozen top-10 finishes. His last win at Torrey Pines came in 2013. His 14th and last major championship victory came at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open.
Woods will play the first two rounds with Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele, beginning on the South course Thursday at 1:40 p.m. (Eastern time) and then the North course on Friday at 12:30 p.m.
Four months removed from his stirring win at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, where the fans surrounded him like the pied piper on the 72nd hole, Woods is still energized by the emotions of the moment as much as it being his 80th career victory.