Tiger Woods will play his first tournament of the year this week at Torrey Pines in San Diego, California.
Monday broke peacefully at sun-drenched Torrey Pines, with soft breezes drifting in off the Pacific Ocean and a sense of calm floating over this 36-hole public golf resort.
Don't expect the tranquility to last.
Tiger Woods, now 42, will make his first start on the PGA Tour in a year this week in the Farmers Insurance Open, a tournament he's won a record seven times (this was also the setting for his last major championship triumph, that coming in the 2008 US Open). While he's ranked 647th in the world these days, hasn't won since 2013 and is making yet another comeback, Woods still moves the needle like no other.
Tiger Woods has won the Farmers Insurance Open a record seven times.
In other words, get ready to hear some noise.
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"The commotion and attention he brings to a tournament, the crowds he brings out, the energy level he brings out is amplified 10 times," Billy Horschel said on Monday (Tuesday NZT) in the quiet PXG trailer parked at Torrey Pines. "We miss him. Dustin [Johnson], Jordan [Spieth], Rory [McIlroy], Rickie [Fowler], Justin [Thomas] ... they are all great players and they bring energy to a tournament.
Tiger Woods was world No 1 for a record 683 weeks and has won 79 Tour titles and 14 majors in his career.
"But it's nothing like Tiger."
Among the biggest fans this week will be Woods' colleagues, all eager to see what the former world No 1 for a record 683 weeks, the guy who has 79 Tour titles and 14 majors on his resume, can do. The feeling was much the same last year at Torrey Pines where Woods returned to the PGA Tour for his first start in 18 months. But his bad back betrayed him, he missed the cut, then withdrew after one round the following week in the Middle East and was out until December.
But this time looks and feels different, many players said. A glimpse of what could be seen was on display last month in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, where Woods was making his first start in 10 months following spinal fusion back surgery in April 2017, the fourth surgical procedure to his back since 2014. Woods looked happy and healthy on the island paradise, his swing free and pain free yet still powerful, and he tied for ninth in the 18-man field.
"I saw some good stuff," Horschel said. "I think he's going to come out and shock some people."
Rory McIlroy saw some good stuff, too. McIlroy played with Woods in Florida ahead of the Hero World Challenge. Then McIlroy, who started his comeback after three months of inactivity with a tie for third in last week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, saw what Woods did in the Bahamas.
"This is a different Tiger," McIlroy told the Belfast Telegraph. "He could stun the world again."
Woods didn't stun Justin Thomas in the Bahamas. After playing with Woods ahead of the Hero, Thomas expected to see some solid play. Paired with Woods in the first and fourth rounds, the reigning PGA Tour player of the year saw just that.
"If he stays healthy, I really do think he'll have a great year," Thomas said last month. "We're just going to have to wait and find out."
Patrick Reed is looking forward to finding out. Reed played a practice round with Woods in the Bahamas and said Monday that Woods got "a taste for competition and played well in the Hero." Reed thinks Woods will make consistent improvements as the weeks pass this year.
"I think he's just going to build off of that and get better and better," Reed said. "This week will be a true test, because you've got some thick rough, a long golf course and some cold weather. In the Bahamas we had pretty generous fairways, it was warm and the rough was not penalising. That's not the case this week.
" ... He's the greatest golfer that has ever played on the planet. I grew up when he was in his prime and I saw what he can do. I want him to come back because I want a taste of that, to see what it's like to play Tiger when he's at his best. And he could get there. With a guy like him, with his work ethic, he can still get it going."