Tiger Woods Is on the Verge of History and Still Tinkering

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Tiger Woods was clad in his hallmark purple for the ultimate spherical on the Farmers Insurance Open final month when he took a compact swipe at his 141-yard approach shot on the second gap. The ball discovered the inexperienced and took two quick hops earlier than it bounced out and in of the cup, leaving him with a brief putt for birdie.

It was a near miss that delighted the large crowd that had fashioned across the inexperienced. But from his place on the green, Woods wore an emotionless expression. He neither smiled nor scowled. He simply appeared to be going about his acquainted enterprise at Torrey Pines Golf Course, a tract in San Diego that he knew properly.

Woods didn’t win the event — he completed in a six-way tie for ninth place — however he was in competition all through, and there was no query that he was the focus. Fans surrounded him on each tee field and inexperienced. They screamed his title and begged for autographs. One couple even confirmed up for his remaining spherical in his-and-hers tiger costumes.

Fan hysterics have been a staple at his event appearances for many years, however they’re now coming throughout a renaissance of kinds, as Woods, 44, seems to be to construct on the momentum he has accrued since profitable the Masters final season.

A eager scholar of golf historical past, Woods is aware of what’s on the market for him to achieve this weekend on the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles — a event that his basis is internet hosting. A victory at Riviera would push him previous Sam Snead for sole possession of the file for profession wins on the P.G.A. Tour, with 83.

Woods received event No. 82 in October on the inaugural Zozo Championship in Japan, a shocking end result after he took a two-month hiatus following knee surgical procedure. He went on to captain the United States to a Presidents Cup victory in mid-December with extra good play.

The twist is that Woods has by no means received at Riviera, which additionally occurs to be the course the place he performed in his first skilled event at age 16.

“I’ve played in a number of events over the years, and for me not to win an event that means so much to me in my hometown — I just haven’t done well here,” Woods stated Tuesday at a information convention. “Hopefully, I can put it together this week, and we’ll have a great conversation on Sunday.”

Woods stated that after the Presidents Cup, he went a few weeks with out touching a membership till his 44th birthday on Dec. 30, when he performed a spherical along with his son, Charlie. Between his Masters win in April and his most up-to-date victories, Woods had sought to manage the trials of his Tour schedule, given his restoration from 4 again surgical procedures, the newest of which was a spinal fusion he underwent in 2017.

Woods pulled out of the FedEx Cup playoff opener with an indirect muscle pressure, and admitted that again soreness restricted him as he ready forward of a disappointing end on the BMW Championship in August.

“I was a little bit fried physically, mentally, emotionally,” Woods recalled final month.

But within the run-up to his look on the Farmers Open in January, Woods returned to his acquainted routine of working his method by his bag, membership by membership. He practiced with a brand new driver. He additionally started utilizing a brand new ball. Coming off the win in Japan and his triumph on the Presidents Cup, Woods was nonetheless tinkering along with his tools and his mechanics, summoning the motivation to compete once more.

At Torrey Pines, Woods returned to the location of considered one of his biggest feats — his victory on the 2008 U.S. Open, a event he received whereas hobbling round with two stress fractures in his left tibia and a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He has been coping with numerous accidents ever since.

Before his opening spherical final month, Woods was requested at a information convention about being paired with Collin Morikawa, 23, which was notable principally as a result of it was the primary time Woods can be enjoying alongside somebody who had been born after Woods turned professional.

“It means I’ve been out here a while,” Woods stated.

He mirrored on the bodily toll. When he was youthful, he stated, he had extra good days than dangerous days. Now, the dangerous days outnumber the great ones. It takes him longer to get well, he stated, which doesn’t make him distinctive amongst growing old golfers. But whereas anybody can have a strong spherical or two, sustaining that top stage of play is the problem.

“It’s hard to put it together for all four days as you get older,” Woods stated. “It’s just harder.”

Woods acknowledged the “missed opportunities” which have resulted from numerous layoffs over the course of his profession, however he doesn’t dwell on them, he stated. In reality, he stated he was “blessed” that he was nonetheless competing. Against the chances, he has unearthed new alternatives.

“I didn’t think I would have these,” he stated.

Brandel Chamblee, an analyst for the Golf Channel and a former tour professional, stated in a phone interview that he noticed no indicators that Woods was struggling final month at Torrey Pines.

“The evidence would be a short swing, a quick transition, a wince here or there at a golf course where he so obviously showed the full extent of his injuries and his pain,” Chamblee stated, referring to Woods’ win on the 2008 U.S. Open. “But it looks like he’s playing with freedom. His golf swing is longer than it’s ever been, and it’s certainly never been this fluid.”

Woods had sure pictures that might have precipitated issues, Chamblee stated. During the second spherical, for instance, Woods needed to take a whack out of the bunker on No. 12. The following day, he discovered the thick tough on No. 13. But he appeared unbothered by all of it — together with brisk circumstances and a few fog that delayed the beginning of his third spherical.

“Warming up in the cold and the fog, and having to stop and start, stop and start,” Chamblee stated. “These things are not good for a bad back.”

But Woods survived. And in Los Angeles, he has a contemporary alternative to make extra historical past, by profitable on a course the place he has by no means received. After all these years, the present goes on.