Tiger looks for new start at old haunt Torrey Pines

Tiger looks for new start at old haunt Torrey Pines

Tiger Woods during his press conference on Wednesday at Torrey Pines.
Robert Beck/SI

In contrast to Tiger Woods’s 2010 debut, reporters at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines on Wednesday didn’t ask Woods about his personal life. Instead, they asked about the state of his game and his health. The answer: Woods feels pretty good after the first injury-free off-season he’s had in six years.

“I obviously was consumed by other things in the last year and had to deal with that,” Woods said. “Life goes on and life moves forward. That is what’s most exciting about this year, having the proper perspective on things.”

While he didn’t directly address his personal scandals and how they affected his game, Woods said golf is easier to play with a clear mind, and that was something he didn’t have last year.

“In order to play this game at a high level, it helps to have a clear mind,” Woods said. “I’ve played at the high levels before in the past without a clear mind, but it helps to be consistent. It helps having your life in balance.

“Certainly my life is much more balanced than it was in the past,” Woods said. “That is exciting for me.”

But all this talk of perspective and balance hasn’t changed Woods’s mindset: “The goal is still the same: try to beat all their butts,” he said.

Woods had his first winless season as a pro in 2010 and has dropped from No. 1 to No. 3 in the World Rankings. His record of success at Torrey Pines (he’s won this event six times and won the 2008 U.S. Open here as well) means that many will be watching Woods this week to measure the effectiveness of his latest swing changes. However, Woods said the test for him was at the Chevron World Challenge in December, when he hit an approach shot to inside three feet to make birdie on the 72nd hole. (He lost in a playoff to Graeme McDowell.)

“I think the whole year last year, golf-wise, came down to one golf shot, and that’s what I’m so proud of,” Woods said. “Under the most intense pressure, I hit the shot I needed to hit when I needed to hit it.”

Woods said that he is more confident in his putting, which he said suffered last year due to the extra work he was doing on his full swing.

“I just didn’t spend as much time on putting [last year] because I was making so many swing changes, and it’s hard to allot as much time as I needed to that,” Woods said. “That’s what was nice about this off-season, is I was able to work on my putting and my stroke and go back to my old keys and old feels. Just putting in the work. It takes thousands of balls, and I was able to do that.”

That off-season was remarkable, Woods said, because it was his first injury-free off-season in six years.

“I haven’t had an off-season like this. It’s always been trying to somehow can I get myself to start up again,” Woods said. “This was nice to actually practice and build. It was something I haven’t been able to do. That’s been fun. Hopefully I can continue this.”

This week, Woods is returning to Torrey Pines in San Diego for the first time since his U.S. Open win in 2008, and he talked about his memories from that event.

“I have watched it a few times. I really don’t watch much of Sunday or Monday, but I do tend to watch Saturday quite a bit if I do reflect on it,” Woods said of his legendary back-nine charge when he made two eagles and one birdie in his final six holes on a broken leg. “It was stupid to play and go through that much pain. I have a little bit of a hard-headed side to me.”

Those memories of his past achievements are why Woods remains confident in his game despite having not won a major since that storied U.S. Open win.

“I’ve heard that before,” Woods said of questions about his game. “I’ve gone through stretches when I haven’t won. I’ve been through this before. All I can do is keep working and stick to the game plan. My record speaks to that.”

On Rules controversies: “It’s our responsibility as players to know the rules. That’s just part of playing the game. For us, as players, we’re out there doing it for a living. I think we should know the rules.

“The only difference is with these rulings are some of these guys who are on TV more than others. I’m sure there are some rules infractions that have happened and will continue to happen, but the guys aren’t on TV all the time.

“So from that regard, I don’t think it’s a level playing field.”

On Twitter: “I am having fun with it. I’m just trying to, obviously, connect with the fans on a different level. Also show them a side of me that most of my friends know.”

On Ian Poulter tweaking him on Twitter: “Obviously he’s bored and has nothing to do. I was working on my game. That’s just Poults being Poults.” Woods implied that Poulter got a saltier response from him via text message.

On his pairing with 2008 Open rival Rocco Mediate: “I don’t know how that computer did that. It’s kind of a surprise, isn’t it though (smiling)? Just randomly put us together.”

On the business prospects of the PGA Tour: “I think the Tour is very healthy. We’ve got some of the players that have played well for a long period of time, still playing well, and we’ve got some new, fresh, young blood out here that is making the Tour exciting to watch.”

On a later-than-usual tee time for his pro-am Wednesday: “I just found out a couple of days ago, but it is what it is. I play when I’m scheduled to play and show up on time. I get to sleep in a little bit. Got up at 3:30 this morning not knowing what to do.”

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