Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Major victories in Tiger Woods' sights on Pines trail

LA JOLLA, CA - JANUARY 23: Tiger Woods catches the ball from caddie Joe LaCava during the Pro-Am at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines North Golf Course on January 23, 2013 in La Jolla, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

The major question is never far away. At least at Torrey Pines the question has a topical link. It was there five years ago that Tiger Woods won the US Open on one leg, his 14th and last major championship success. The Farmers Insurance Open does not have quite the same ring, but Woods likes it well enough, having won it six times on this track.

The familiarity of the surroundings and the views out across the Pacific are all the balm Woods needs ahead of his PGA Tour seasonal debut one week after missing a European Tour cut for the first time as a pro in Abu Dhabi. Woods struck the ball well enough at the HSBC Championship and, were it not for a two-shot penalty for taking an illegal drop out of sand, he would have been busy sharpening his game across the weekend.



He is not far off. Once the putts start to drop from 12 feet like they did in his youth the question of adding to his major haul will acquire greater legitimacy. "I would have to say the majority of the year [2012] I hit it pretty good, but my putting and short game weren't quite there. I spent so much time on ball striking that that finally came around. So towards the end of the season, I was able to spend more time with my chipping and putting and that's come around. So now I've got to marry up both of those two combos and, hopefully, I can do it this year and do it on a consistent basis."



Playing pain-free golf was a key part of the renaissance in 2012 that yielded three PGA Tour titles. The memory of limping across San Diego's coastal path in 2008 in pursuit of Chris DiMarco provokes the sweat glands still. "I remember several things. The number one thing that comes to my mind every time I look at it, or see highlights of it, is just pure pain that I was in. I don't ever want to experience that again. That was a very, very difficult week. I don't know how I got through it."



Woods is grouped with Nick Watney, an inductee into the Nike family earlier this month, and Rickie Fowler, both of whom were overlooked by captain Davis Love III for inclusion in the American Ryder Cup team at Medinah. Of those who did stand alongside Woods in Chicago, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and the defending champion Brandt Snedeker go in the same group and Dustin Johnson and the US Ryder Cup cheerleader Keegan Bradley have the company of Vijay Singh for the opening two days.



European interest is carried by Nicolas Colsaerts, who follows his Ryder Cup debut with his inaugural season on the PGA Tour. "Everywhere I go there is always somebody that says something pretty nice about it. I always get reminded of what happened at the Ryder Cup. It's almost like I've got to pinch myself to realise what I've done."

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