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January 23, 2013

Torrey Pines could be a good gauge for Tiger

SAN DIEGO — Based on his record alone, there could be cause for alarm the way Tiger Woods started his season.

Woods never finished out of the top 10 in his season opener until his 13th season, when he was coming off reconstructive surgery on his left knee and was eliminated in the second round of the Match Play Championship.

He was eliminated on the second day of the Abu Dhabi Championship.

The more important measure, however, is this week at Torrey Pines.

Woods has won seven times as a pro on this track along the Pacific bluffs. It’s a public course, but it feels as if he owns it. Such is his dominance at Torrey Pines that after the first round of the 2008 Buick Invitational, when Woods opened with a 67 on the South Course, a caddie standing behind the 18th green said, “He just won two tournaments with one round.” Sure enough, Woods won that week by eight shots, and then won the U.S. Open that summer on a mangled knee in a playoff.

That was his 14th — and at the moment, his last — major championship.

That also was his last win at Torrey Pines.

The last time he played Torrey Pines was in 2011, which turned out to be the worst season of his career. He was embarking on a brand new swing, his game was a wreck and it showed. Woods went 74-75 on the weekend and tied for 44th.

Where is he now?

“It’s nice to be healthy, to be able to train and practice and do all of the things that I know I can do,” Woods said Tuesday after playing the back nine on the South Course. “It’s definitely a very different feeling, so it’s nice to be back. It’s nice to get out there and play a course that I know.”

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