SAN DIEGO – Let’s see, there’s a record 83rd PGA Tour victory to chase.
A Masters title to defend. A spot in the Summer Olympics to nail down. A Ryder Cup team to make. And more major championships to hunt.
Yes, Tiger Woods has a lot to chew on in 2020.
But Woods isn’t looking ahead. Never has, never will. He’s not counting down the days until his 83rd is within one short putt of achieving. He’s not thinking about his green jacket defense or the Olympics in Tokyo or the Ryder Cup in Wisconsin.
After all these years, Woods has come to learn one thing when it comes to golf – think about today and take care of today. Thus, when he makes his 2020 debut in the Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday, his first tee shot and then his second shot and so on will be on his mind.
“I really don’t think about (83) because I have to think about all the things I need to do to win the tournament,” Woods, a winner of three of his last 16 worldwide starts, said Tuesday. “There’s so many different shots I have to play and strategy and thinking my way around the golf course that I’m more consumed in that.”
Well, it’s worked to the tune of 82 Tour titles, five green jackets, 15 major triumphs. It worked last fall when, in his most recent PGA Tour start, he won the Zozo Championship in Japan, equaling Sam Snead for the most victories in PGA Tour history. It worked in his most recent appearance inside the ropes in December, where he was the best player and captained the USA to victory in the Presidents Cup in Australia.
Upon leaving Oz, Woods, ranked No. 6 in the world, only touched his clubs once in the last month of the year when he played Dec. 24 on his 44th birthday with his son, Charlie. It was a great day, Woods said, reminiscent of the times he played on his birthday with his father.
Then about three days after the New Year, Woods started working in earnest for his debut. He’s been testing the new TaylorMade SIM driver and the latest golf ball developed by Bridgestone.
“I feel like I ended the year on a good note and I felt like my game really didn’t need a whole lot of kind of dusting,” he said. “But I am putting some new woods in play this week, so I’m going to have to do the testing, making sure they’re ready to go. If not, I’ll go back to my old faithful.”
Well, he’s back at another old faithful, Torrey Pines, the seaside golf resort where Woods has won the Farmers Insurance Open seven times. He also won the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg here. The place is near and dear to his heart, from the days his pop first brought him here to watch professional golf.
Woods made winning look routine here, no more so than when he won the Farmers four consecutive years starting in 2005. In his heyday, winning his 83rd Tour title would be a given – he won at least five times in 10 different years. As would a spot on the USA team for the Ryder Cup. As would a spot on the USA team in the Summer Olympics.
But these days, those days are tougher to dial up. At 44 and after five surgical procedures to his left knee and four to his back, Woods has to work harder to make his game work.
He does so one day at a time.
“When I was younger I had more good days than bad feeling‑wise,” Woods said. “I feel more bad days than I do good days. I think all of you at my age or older can relate to that. I think that’s the hardest part about being an older athlete. You see it all the time at the Masters. You see it every single year, either Fred (Couples), (Bernhard) Langer or somebody’s up there for about two to three days, then they fade. It’s hard to put it together for all four days as you get older. It’s just harder.
“That’s one of the things that I’ve noticed; it’s hard to recover now. But I’ve been able to have won a few tournaments since I’ve made my comeback and hopefully I win some more.”