January 28, 2018
Former world number one Tiger Woods returned to US PGA Tour competition for the first time in a year and made the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open.
The 14-time major champion hadn't played the weekend of a tour event since August of 2015 and now looks to the Genesis Open at Riviera next month in his quest to get his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 majors back on track after years of debilitating back trouble.
Here are five things we learned from Tiger's return:
'No issues' with back
Woods hasn't been in the winner's circle since he won five US PGA Tour events in 2013 -- and a lot of that time he has been sidelined by back trouble. A comeback bid last year ended abruptly, but Woods says he's pain-free since spinal fusion surgery in April and it looked it this week. He finished ranked 23rd in driving distance and had no trouble hitting out of Torrey Pines' dense tough rough.
"A few times I had to jack up the speed and had no issues at all," Woods said.
Swing needs work
Woods was worse than erratic off the tee, hitting just 17 fairways out of 56 all week. He didn't improve as the tournament wore on -- hitting just nine over his last three rounds.
Woods called a round of wild misses on Saturday "gross." It's not just rust. Woods said repeatedly that his "feels" are different as he adjusts to playing under tournament pressure with the "new body" that fusion surgery gave him.
Short game can shine
Despite his struggles off the tee, Woods displayed flashes of the old magic around the greens in order to wrest a sub-par score from unforgiving Torrey Pines.
"I got a lot out of my rounds," said Woods, who hit just 42 of 72 greens in regulation but limited the damage to 10 bogeys and one double-bogey -- with his putter playing a key role.
Fans still love him
Tiger on the prowl is still the biggest draw in golf. Thousands followed his rounds, even when it was clear he wouldn't contend for a win.
The familiar disruptive jostling -- and even one shout as he putted that drew and angry scowl -- didn't outweigh the buzz welcomed by his playing partners and Woods himself.
"It's fun to see the energy out here again," said Charley Hoffman, who played with Woods over the first two rounds. "When he's out here it's something special."
Added Woods: "The people were absolutely fantastic all week. They were loud, they were excited, but they were very respectful."
Woods wants wins
Woods said he was going into the week with "tempered expectations" given his dearth of tournament play over the past two years. He sounded a patient note in the face of his troubles off the tee, indicating he was ready to give himself time to fine-tune his game.
But come Sunday, Woods admitted he was thinking of a score that might get him into a playoff. And he departed Torrey Pines planning on working on "everything" in his game in the buildup to next month's Genesis Open.
Woods has yet to reveal the rest of his early season plans, except to say they'll all be aimed at Augusta National in April -- where he has won four Masters Green Jackets.