By Barry Jagoda
San Diego golf fans are in for packed crowds, as Tiger Woods returns to Torrey Pines Golf Course Thursday for opening rounds in the Farmers Insurance Open playing alongside new hometown star Xander Schauffele, who is currently leading in PGA tour competition.
Two-time winner of the Farmers, Australian star Jason Day, will be defending his title as the 2018 Farmers champion, playing the North Course starting at 9:30, paired with two other former Farmers champs, Brandt Snedeker and Jon Rahm.
Woods and Schauffele will tee off on the more difficult Torrey South Course, at 10:40 a.m. joined by another star, Tony Finau.
Woods has returned to professional golf after four years away from the game due to back injuries (as well as personal struggles) and won an event at the end of 2018. “Last year towards the end of the season I got really tired. This off-season I spent a lot of time in the gym and I’ve gotten a lot stronger.”
For perspective Tiger said, “going through what I went through the last few years, I don’t wish that on anybody. There was a period of time when I couldn’t sit, stand or walk.” The world of golf will be waiting to see if Woods is ready to achieve the main goal he has yet to accomplish, overtaking the record of Jack Nicklaus who leads in career wins of major tournaments at 18.
Nicklaus won his last major tournament (five events each year are considered “majors”) at age 46, so Tiger, who turned 43 on Dec. 30 of last year is certainly not out of the running. Golf is one sport in which “oldsters” can compete and do well.
Meanwhile, La Jolla native Alexander Victor Schauffele, commonly known as “Xander,” is a youngster, only 25. He says he is “comfortable at home sleeping in my own bed,” but has only been out to Torrey Pines a few times, playing some in high school. Still he knows playing in the Farmers alongside Tiger will be “a bit like a zoo,” Saying he is a of a recluse, he’ll try to avoid distractions “by looking out at the ocean.”
The challenge for Jason Day is to defend his title.
Speaking with reporters in a pre-tournament interview on Tuesday, Day said, “I don’t think I’ve ever had the chance to follow through with a title defense and it would be nice to get another one.” Day explained that he was distracted in 2018, after the Farmers, mainly due to complications of cancer suffered by his mother. “My team and I have a plan and we are going to stay focused.”
Returning to the topic of Tiger Woods, Day said, “I played a practice round with him last year and I said, ‘this guy’s going to win. Before he was limping around, in pain, his swing didn’t look very good. But then he began to look much healthier. It’s cool to see him back.”
Barry Jagoda, an award-winning broadcast journalist, was special assistant to President Carter for media and public affairs. He is a 1967 graduate of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and lives in La Jolla.
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