Date: January 23, 2019
Author: Martin Blake

Tiger is back, Day to defend


Tiger Woods makes his first golfing appearance of 2019 at Torrey Pines in California this week, but it is also a big week for Jason Day, who defends the Farmers Insurance Open that he won this time last year.

Woods’ has won eight times at Torrey Pines including his most recent major championship, the 2008 US Open,

He admits it is a course “I’ve always loved’’, having attended his first-ever PGA Tour event with his father Earl here as a boy.

“Jordan (Spieth) asked me as we were playing: ‘How long have you been coming down here’. And I said: ‘Well, 10 years longer than you’ve been alive’,’’ an upbeat Woods told the media in San Diego today.

This time last year Woods was playing and still feeling his way after his major back surgery. A year on, he has returned to the winner’s list with his famous victory at the Tour Championship. “Totally different,” he said. “I know what my body can and can’t do. Last year … it was like hitting a moving target. This year I have a greater understanding of what I can’t do. There’s not that uncertainty I had going into last year.’’

How he fares in 2019 shapes as the biggest story in golf, as he continues to chase the big records – Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major championships (he has 14) and Sam Snead’s 82 tour wins (he is on 80). But he has trained hard in the off-season to prepare his body, having faded at the Ryder Cup at the end of 2018 owing to fatigue.

“My legs are where they need to be, which they weren’t at the end of last season,’’ he said.

As for Australia’s Day, he is hellbent on doing something that he has never done: to defend a title that he owns. “Obviously I’ve had some success here, and I’m excited about that and the memories that come along with that,’’ he said today. “But I’m also excited to see where my game stands up, not only against the best players in the world, but where I need to improve parts of my game going forward into the rest of the season.’’

Day said Woods’ feted appearance removed some of the stress from his own preparation. “That takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders to know that I can walk around and do my work and get out of here, not stress about it too much.’’

Adam Scott is also in the field at Torrey, demonstrating a new putting method – Matt Kucher-style with the putter shaft entwined in his lower left arm – today.