Today: 17.02.2018
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16.02.2018

Why this week will tell us a lot about Tiger Woods’ future.

Three weeks removed from playing in his last tournament, Tiger Woods returns to competition this week when he plays the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club. Woods, who finished tied for 23rd at the Farmers Insurance Open last month at Torrey Pines, will be paired with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas in the first two...
Time: 16:00     Date: 13.02.2018
Last US Sport News: Why this week will tell us a lot about Tiger Woods’ future. NY Post 24 - US News

Woods, who finished tied for 23rd at the Farmers Insurance Open last month at Torrey Pines, will be paired with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas in the first two rounds, which begin Thursday.

Riviera is a special place for Woods, who grew up just down the road in Cypress and, in 1992 as a 16-year-old amateur, made his PGA Tour debut there at what was then called the Nissan Open at Riviera. Woods shot a respectable — if not remarkable — 72-75 en route to missing the cut.

Woods, however, hasn’t played at Riviera since 2006, when he withdrew with an illness, and has had mixed results there in his 10 appearances as a professional. His best finish there was a runner-up in 1999.

His performance at Torrey Pines was far more encouraging than it was discouraging. He was erratic with the driver, hitting only 17 of 56 fairways for the week. But to shoot 3-under for the tournament based on those errant driving statistics (he was tied for 76th in driving for the tournament) is a testament to how good Woods’ short game was that week.

The rough at Torrey Pines was US Open length. The rough at Riviera is almost nonexistent. So if Woods has been able to tighten his tee shots up in practice the last couple of weeks and he brings the same short game prowess to the course this week, he could contend.

Woods was ranked 21st in scrambling at Torrey, eighth in putting and 16th in strokes gained putting.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday in his pre-tournament press conference, Woods sounded similar to the way he sounded three weeks ago at Torrey Pines. He is tempering expectations and speaking in terms of baby steps in this comeback.

For example, he has not yet committed to play the Honda Classic, which is next week, because he wants to see how he feels about playing back-to-back tournaments.

“I’m just starting back,’’ Woods said Tuesday. “I’ve been away from the game for a very long time. I’ve basically played two tournaments. I’ve got a lot of room for improvement and a long way to go.’’

Asked what will go into his decision whether to play Honda, which he has until the end of the day Friday to commit to, Woods said: “Not to feel sore, to feel like I can play all-out again with just three days off, to go full-bore again the week after playing. I’ve been trying to simulate that at home, but it’s just not the same.’’

He said he was sore after playing Torrey Pines, but not in his back, which he said feels great.

“My feet were sore because I’m not used to walking four rounds,’’ he said. “But it was a good sore.’’

As for the back, Woods said: “My [swing] speed has come back because my back is now good again. My disc is no longer there so there’s no more pain there and I feel great. That’s why I’ve gotten my speed back.’’

Barring unforeseen circumstances, reading the tea leaves and understanding how much Woods needs competitive rounds to ramp up for the Masters, which would be his first start in a major championship since the 2015 PGA Championship, expect him to play Honda.

As for this week, Woods remains confounded as to why he hasn’t played Riviera well.

“I love the golf course, it fits my eye and I play it awful,’’ Woods said with a smile. “For some reason, I just don’t play it well.’’

Among the professional events Woods has entered at least four times, Riviera remains the only one he hasn’t won.

“I’ve had several chances to win at Riviera, but just haven’t gotten it done,’’ Woods said. “Obviously, it would mean a lot to me, even more now as tournament host.’’

The tournament, which benefits Woods’ foundation, will present challenges to him this week that go far beyond his lack of tournament play the last few years and the tight fairways of Riviera.

The field is stacked, including defending champion and current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, McIlroy, Thomas, the reigning PGA Tour player of the Year and Phil Mickelson, who’s coming off consecutive top-five finishes and has won twice at Riviera.

Woods, who’s ranked 550th in the world, played the back nine with Thomas, who flew to L.A. with him on his plane, on Tuesday and will play all 18 in the pro-am on Wednesday. The more tournament he plays, the higher his and everyone else’s expectations will rise.

“Eventually, I’d like to win tournaments,” Woods said. “I am trying to get through that process to get to that point. Once I get in contention I can handle myself. I just need to get there.”

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