Healthy Tiger on the prowl again

A relaxed and seemingly content Tiger Woods gave his body a thumbs up on Wednesday on the eve of his official PGA Tour comeback and could hardly contain his enthusiasm at being pain-free after years of searing pain in his back and legs.
Tiger Woods is confident in his physical capacity to withstand the competitive demands of this week's Farmers Insurance Open.
Tiger Woods is confident in his physical capacity to withstand the competitive demands of this week's Farmers Insurance Open.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Former No. 1 confident about his game and body in latest comeback bid at Torrey Pines

LOS ANGELES • Tiger Woods declared it was all systems go after sneaking in nine quick holes at Torrey Pines on Tuesday, two days ahead of his official PGA Tour comeback at the Farmers Insurance Open.

On a sparkling winter morning in southern California, Woods showed he is still an early bird teeing off shortly after the sun rose over the Laguna Mountains.

He played the back nine on the South Course with fellow former world No. 1 Jason Day of Australia and American Bryson DeChambeau and was finished by 9.30am.

Woods did not speak to reporters after his practice round, but had a quick word with ESPN while he was playing. He was confident that his game - and body - was heading in the right direction.

"You have to beat balls for a little bit of time to build up your endurance and muscles. I feel like I've done that and now it's time to play a tournament," he said.

Woods, who has barely played in three years owing to a serious back injury, returned after a 10-month absence last month when he took part in the unofficial Hero World Challenge, finishing a respectable ninth out of 18 players and swinging with apparent freedom.

"I've had a little more time to get ready for this event," he added. "I've played a lot more golf and overall I feel like I've made some nice changes. I feel good."

Day also felt positive about Woods' comeback this week.

"This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he's hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he's got some speed," said the 30-year-old.

Woods, 42, will play the first two rounds with countrymen Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

WOODS GOING WELL...

This time he definitely looks ready; I think his swing is really nice, he's hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he's got some speed, which is great.

JASON DAY, former world No. 1, putting his seal of approval on Tiger Woods' PGA Tour comeback.

He hardly needs a practice round at Torrey Pines to know his way around. He has won here on eight occasions, seven times at the PGA Tour event and most notably at the 2008 US Open.

All eyes will surely be on Woods, and that is just the way defending champion Jon Rahm likes it.

"We all know the power of media and social media. You can put all the attention on what Tiger's doing and forget about what I'm doing, it will actually be great," he said.

Expectations surrounding Rahm, 23, have soared thanks to his play-off triumph last Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. The Spaniard moved from third to second in the world rankings, supplanting US star Jordan Spieth.

"Hopefully I keep playing good and give you guys something to talk about," Rahm said.

"But it's not bad that the attention's on Tiger. It's good for golf, it's good for all of us."

... BUT IT WON'T BE A PIECE OF CAKE

I'm sure he's got arthritis. I think it will be tough. At that level, the slightest incremental deterioration physically, even though golf is not football, it still has huge physical demands to do it without pain.

BILL MALLON, former professional golfer, is not convinced of an immediate return to form for Woods.

Two former professionals, however, have offered a tempered view of what to expect from Woods for this year and beyond.

Brandel Chamblee, now a forthright Golf Channel analyst, said that Woods appears to have solved his body and swing issues, but "chipping yips" and age make it nearly impossible to imagine him recapturing his old magic.

Bill Mallon agrees: "He was so good once it would be hard to dismiss him, but coming back after four back surgeries and multiple left knee surgeries - I'm sure he's got arthritis. I think it will be tough.

"At that level, the slightest incremental deterioration physically, even though golf is not football, it still has huge physical demands to do it without pain."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN

Day 1: StarHub Ch204, tomorrow, 4am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2018, with the headline 'Healthy Tiger on the prowl again'. Print Edition | Subscribe