Tiger has Augusta on his mind
Tiger Woods returns to action in this week's Farmers Insurance Open in California and admits he's already thinking ahead to April's US Masters at Augusta National.
This is Woods' first start in a full-field event since last January although he made an encouraging comeback to competitive golf when sharing ninth place in the 18-man field at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas last month.
Woods is an eight-time winner at this week's venue, Torrey Pines, seven of those coming in this event and the other in the 2008 US Open, his last major win.
Asked about his goals for the week, Woods said: "I'm just trying to build towards April. That's what I told you guys last year in the Bahamas. I'm looking forward to playing a full schedule and getting ready for the Masters and I haven't done that in a very long time.
"That's usually been my schedule and my outlook. From '96 on it's been that way to try to get ready for Augusta and there's no reason to change that."
The Farmers Insurance Open features three rounds on the South Course and one on the easier North where Woods shot a one-under 71 in Wednesday's pro-am.
The 14-time major winner added: "I feel great coming back here to southern California. This is a golf course and a tournament that I've had some pretty good results in and I'm really looking forward to it.
"I played nine holes yesterday on the South and then 18 today on the North. Haven't seen it like this in a while where it's been this firm, this fast. The greens are definitely very springy and it's going to be a challenge this week.
"It's going to be a little bit harder to make birdies than it has been in the past and overall it will be a great challenge."
As for his health, a smiling Woods added: "I have no more pain in my back, my back is fused. That wasn't the case last year. I was trying to manage the disk and the vertebrae, but it's all finished now. Now it's fused and quality of life is infinitely better than it was last year at this point."
Woods is 23.00 to win the Farmers Insurance Open and 17.00 to be the top American. Tiger, who starts his bid on the tougher South Course on Thursday, is 2.25 to shoot 72 & Under in his opening round and 1.57 to fire 73 & Over.
Looking ahead, Woods is 19.00 to win the US Masters.
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