LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA – Now that Tiger Woods is here, back at Torrey Pines with no screaming back pain and with the eyes of the golf world on him again at the Farmers Insurance Open, what now?
In Woods’ prime, he would routinely brush the expectations question aside as an annoyance. Winning, Woods always insisted and often in as few words as possible, was all that mattered.
But that was before four back surgeries, including fusion surgery last April, that changed the tenor of his career the past few years. One year removed from his false-start comeback here at Torrey Pines, this time looks and feels different.
So are the expectations.
“My expectations have tempered a little bit because I haven’t played,” Woods said in his pre-tournament press conference Wednesday. “I haven’t played a full schedule since 2015 (when he played 11 events). It’s been a long time.
“To be honest with you, I just wanted to start playing on the Tour and getting into a rhythm of playing a schedule again. I haven’t done that in such a long time so I don’t know what to expect. Just go out there and just play.”
Pressed on specifics – is making the cut enough or is a top-10 finish in his mind – Woods widened the lens.
“I’m just trying to build toward April (and the Masters),” Woods said. “I’m looking forward to playing a full schedule and getting ready for the Masters and I haven’t done that in a long time. That’s usually been my schedule and my outlook. From ’96 on it’s been that way to try to get ready for Augusta and there’s no reason to change that.”
Not only will this be Woods’ first official tournament in a year – he finished ninth in the 18-player Hero World Challenge he hosted in December – he is no longer working with swing coach Chris Como. This is, in a sense, new territory for Woods because of his back fusion.
“It’s just that no one’s had a spinal fusion at that level and be able to hit the ball as hard as I do. I’d like to meet somebody who can swing it over 120 miles per hour with a fused back. Do you know anybody?” Woods said.
“No one understands that so I have to rely on my own feels and play around with what my body can and cannot do. It’s not going to look like it used to. I don’t have the mobility that I used to and that’s just the reality. Now it’s just a matter of what I can do.”