Tiger Woods Returns to Torrey Pines in Search of His Golf Game

Tiger Woods is easy to beat on the golf course these days. His peers prefer the days when he easily beat them.

“I want to see him back on top of his game again,” U.S. PGA Tour Player Pat Perez said. “He is golf. I don’t care where he is, if he finishes last or first or whatever, he is the game of golf and until he leaves, he will be that guy.”

Woods, 39, will play again this week at California’s Torrey Pines, a course where he has won eight times, including the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods shot an 82 on the second day of the Phoenix Open last week, the worst round of his professional career, in his first full-field tournament since undergoing back surgery and missing the cut at the PGA Championship in August.

The 14-time major tournament winner arrived in California to play in yesterday’s pro-am event after spending time in Beaver Creek, Colorado, supporting his girlfriend, Lindsey Vonn, at the World Ski Championships. He played nine holes alongside 1992 Masters Tournament winner Fred Couples and new coach Chris Como.

“My phone has been off the last couple days,” Woods told reporters. “I’ve just been working on my game, Chris and I. The whole idea is just to make sure I’m ready for Augusta (the Masters). We still have some work to do.”

Woods traveled home to Florida after the event at TPC Scottsdale last week to practice for a few days before heading west again.

Saying that he is “caught between patterns,” Woods said he needs to play in more events and competitive rounds before he can be confident on the feel of his new swing. Under Como, Woods said the “release” of his swing puts his club on a different swing path, leading to errant shots.

“The movement patterns are so polar opposites, that when I do half of one and half of the other, it’s pretty bad,” he said.

Chipping Struggles

Woods has particularly struggled with chipping around the green. In Arizona, he flubbed numerous short shots -- as he also did two months earlier while finishing last in the 18-player World Challenge event -- and even reverted to using long irons to skip the ball along the ground rather than try to hit a lofted pitching wedge shot.

Woods’s former coach, Hank Haney, said his ex-pupil has a condition that is hard to cure.

“When you have the yips, you have issues,” Haney said on PGA Tour Radio after Woods’s Phoenix struggles. “This isn’t going away. This isn’t just a turn of the switch.”

Haney parted ways with Woods in 2010, ending a six-year coaching relationship during which Woods won six of his 14 major titles among 31 wins. Woods hasn’t won one of golf’s four majors since the 2008 U.S. Open and remains four titles shy of matching Jack Nicklaus’s record haul.

World’s Best

As recently as 18 months ago, Woods was the world’s No. 1-ranked player. He won five events in 2013 and was voted as the U.S. Tour’s player of the year. Since then, he has plummeted to No. 56 in the world rankings after the surgery and hired Como as his fourth swing coach since turning pro, replacing Sean Foley.

“It just shows golf is a hard game and it’s a game of confidence as well,” 2013 U.S. Open winner Justin Rose told reporters at Torrey Pines. “Sometimes if you haven’t played much, confidence can disappear. It’s going to take a little while to get back into tournament mode, get himself in contention, start to feel good again.”

Woods sounded less than confident that he will rediscover that feel anytime soon.

“My impact points are different now,” he said. “I just need to keep doing it, doing it and eventually it will become more natural. As of now, it’s not. This is going to be a tough week. We’ll see.”

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