LA JOLLA, Calif. – The buzz is very real this week at Torrey Pines Golf Course, and that was before Tiger Woods even showed up for his first PGA Tour event of the year at the site where he last won a major - the 2008 U.S. Open.
As golf fans arrived early in the week during pro-ams, the setting for the Farmer's Insurance Open couldn't be more perfect: sunny skies with weather in the 70s all week, two golf courses in magnificent condition, the backdrop of the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, and anticipation of golf's former longtime No. 1-ranked player.
By Monday morning, the crowds were already gathering around the putting green near the golfers' grill as they brought their cameras, hoping to get a good shot of players like Rickie Fowler, Angel Cabrera or John Daly, who were there for the pro-am. Of the course, the No. 1 question was, "Is Tiger here yet?"
No, they wouldn't get to see him until today as Woods comes back to his old stomping ground for a practice round. We learned on Tuesday that he was to be paired in the first two rounds with the man he beat in that dramatic playoff in the 2008 U.S. Open – Rocco Mediate. Anthony Kim will join them as well, and you can imagine the proverbial sea of humanity that will be following the 9 a.m. group out on Torrey Pines' North Course on Thursday. (The same group will tee off at 10 a.m. Friday on Torrey Pines South, the golf course that was used for the epic 2008 U.S. Open that went 91 holes.)
Fans are excited about seeing who they hope is a rejuvenated Tiger Woods, injury free and free, somewhat, of the sex scandal that rocked the sporting world for the better part of 2010 following the now infamous 2009 Thanksgiving car crash. Woods has a new coach, Sean Foley, and a clean slate in many ways. And it's the first time he's been back to Torrey Pines to play in a professional event since 2008, having missed the regular event in 2009 following knee surgery and last year's because he took a leave from the game.
This week, he can reinvent himself. And most fans, especially the local ones who saw Tiger grow up in the area as a sensational junior, have forgiven him. No better place for Woods to start out 2011 than Torrey Pines, where he could not only win for the seventh time, but give the golf world a more positive jolt than he did a little more than a year ago.
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