Tiger Woods will make his 2013 PGA Tour debut this week at Torrey Pines, a Southern California course with which he is intimately familiar. Woods comes to San Diego fresh off an MC in Abu Dhabi, where he was issued a post-round two-stroke penalty for mistakenly taking embedded ball relief from a sandy area (Woods said that it was the first penalty of that nature in his career).
Tiger met with the press on Tuesday for his pre-tournament availability, and the one overarching theme of the press conference was his long and successful history at Torrey Pines. It's a tournament that he's been coming to since he was a child, and he recalled watching it with his dad when he was in "single digits."
Woods has won seven tournaments at Torrey Pines -- six of the annual Tour stops (then Buick Invitationals) and the 2008 U.S. Open. He has not won a major since, with the intervening years certainly not lacking in drama. Reporters asked Woods about that week, and rather than dwelling on the joy of the win, he said he often instantly thinks about the pain he endured. "I do look at that week often," said Woods. "I remember several things and number one that comes to my mind every time I look at it or see highlights of it is just the pure pain that I was in. I don't ever want to experience that again. That was a very difficult week, having to go five days -- I don't really know how I quite got through five days. I definitely never want to experience that again, that part of it."
At the press table, Woods said he was getting sweaty palms just thinking about the pain from that week. On the positive side, however, he said, "The putt on 18 to get into it is a putt that I will never forget."
But that win five years ago is far from his mind this week as he goes through preparations to start his 2013 Tour season. Tiger said that the course is playing differently this week, and is as dry and fast as he can remember, so he spent much of his time on Tuesday working with those new conditions, as opposed to reminiscing about past success. "I didn't really think about the past stuff. As I said, this golf course was playing different. I can't remember it playing this dry this time of year. It's been a while." Woods indicated that the fairways are playing as fast as they were during the U.S. Open, but that the rough was obviously not as high and the greens not as slick.
While Woods remains major-less since his return from the injury in 2008, his game is in better shape than it's been as this season begins. A three-win season in 2012 ended a winless drought of more than two years, and his Sean Foley redesigned swing progressed as the year went on -- even to the point where he said he felt comfortable enough with it to spend more time on chipping and putting recently.
Playing on a track that's perhaps the most comfortable venue on Tour for him (he grouped it with Firestone and Augusta), and in relatively good health, Woods should be the favorite this week and the site of his last major could be the start of a big 2013.