Tiger Woods makes his first official start on the PGA Tour for a year in the Farmers Insurance Open, but for once all eyes may not be on the 14-time major winner.
Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, including his last major in the 2008 US Open, but missed the cut in this event 12 months ago, withdrew after an opening 77 in the following week’s Dubai Desert Classic and sat out the rest of the year until returning with a tie for ninth in December’s 18-man Hero World Challenge.
“Before the Hero I was basically given the okay probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com.
“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”
However, speaking ahead of the defence of his Omega Dubai Desert Classic title, Masters champion Sergio Garcia sounded a note of caution.
“It’s going to be interesting to see,” Garcia told a pre-tournament press conference.
“But, in my opinion, it’s a big question mark to see how he’s going to be able to do physically. I think that he looked pretty good at the Hero Challenge. But he has looked good at the Hero Challenge in the past and then, you know, he hasn’t lasted too long.”
Woods is rated 22/1 to win his first event since 2013, with defending champion and world number two Jon Rahm the favourite as he seeks a victory which would amazingly see him overtake Dustin Johnson at the top of the rankings.
“It’s kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don’t change their behaviour based on what I do, right?” Rahm told a pre-tournament press conference.
“They’ll never change what they think of me. So I really don’t know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”
Rahm only turned professional in June 2016, but won three times worldwide in 2017 and started this season with second place behind Johnson in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and victory in the CareerBuilder Challenge last week.
“I’ve said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” added Rahm, who is now less than 1.4 ranking points behind the American.
“I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win. I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.
“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don’t have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”
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