Former world number one Tiger Woods is hoping some hard work during his winter break will bring dividends as he prepares for his seasonal debut in this week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
Woods admits that he didn’t pay enough attention to his short game last year and along with his much publicised off-course distractions this contributed to a barren 2010 when he failed to win a single title.
Speaking ahead of the tournament, Woods explained why the strongest part of his game deserted him last year: "I didn't focus on my short game as much as I needed to and have in the past," he said.
"It was because I was making changes to my swing and I needed to spend more time on that. But I have had time to work on my short game during this off-season. You need to hit thousands of balls and we were not able to do that last year and last year was one of the worst putting years I have had.
"It's been a while since I have had a full off-season. I've been hurt quite a bit over that period and it's nice to have a true off-season to work on my game.”
Woods has been paired with Rocco Mediate for the first two rounds to bring back more painful but happy memories. The wounded Tiger beat Mediate at Torrey Pines after a compelling 19-hole play-off for the 2008 US Open; Woods had limped through the tournament with a serious knee injury. This will be Woods first appearance at the course since he hobbled off with a double stress fracture, but Torrey Pines has been a happy hunting ground for Tiger over the years.
Formerly known as the Buick Open, Woods has dominated this event in recent years with 5 wins in 6 appearances since 2003 and it will be no coincidence that Woods has chosen one of his favourite layouts to begin his bid to regain his position at the top of the world rankings.
With most of the world’s top golfers bypassing the event, bookmakers have installed Woods as clear favourite to find winning form this week; his betting odds are 11/4 with just about every bookie. The only other top ten player competing is Phil Mickleson and he is second favourite in the betting at 16/1 with most of the big firms.