US venue major boost for Tiger Woods

AFTER the shock of his missed cut in Abu Dhabi last Friday, Tiger Woods this week returns to the scene of his last major win, five years ago.

Torrey Pines near San Diego, the venue for the Farmers Insurance Open, is also where Woods has claimed six more of his 74 PGA Tour titles and, before that, six world junior titles between the ages of eight and 15.

When told the world No 2 had an average of 68.6 in nearly 50 Tour rounds at the venue, defending champion Brandt Snedeker said: “That’s just phen-omenal – I mean, that’s stupid.

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“If you shoot even par on the South Course you’re doing great.Any time Tiger has a record I put an asterisk by it because it’s Tiger’s record. It’s not normal.”

Snedeker did not have to beat Woods last year. This is only his second time back since he won the 2008 US Open with two stress fractures in one leg and a knee which required reconstructive surgery straight afterwards. He did not play again for eight months.

“He’s so great for the game of golf,” said Ryder Cup team-mate winner Snedeker. “We’re so fortunate to have him back and playing well. He adds a bit more electricity to the tournament. There are certain guys when they walk into a room people gravitate towards them. Greg Norman had that magnetism, and Phil [Mickelson] does.”

Woods, whose early exit in the Middle East was the result of a two-stroke penalty for a wrong drop, believes his game is good enough to close the gap on Jack Nicklaus’s 18-major record this season.

“Absolutely,” said the man who will next try to take his own tally to 15 in the US Masters at Augusta in April.

“I would have to say the majority of last year I hit it pretty good, but my putting and short game weren’t quite there.

“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.”

While Woods plays his first round on the South Course alongside Nick Watney and Rickie Fowler, over on the easier North lay-out Mickelson tees off with Snedeker and Masters champion Bubba Watson.

Belgian Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts starts his new life as a PGA Tour member this week, a week later than English pair David Lynn and Ross Fisher.