San Diego: There is a shop in the village of La Jolla, Second Act West, where people flock to find vintage clothing. Seven miles away, Tiger Woods rooted around in the past on Monday and dug up his designer game from a few years back, turning Torrey Pines into his second act, west.
In winning his PGA Tour season debut for the first time since 2008, Woods was equal parts technician and trick-shot artist. Torrey Pines, the site of 8 of his 75 Tour victories, is where Woods’ imagination takes flight, as was made plain down the stretch of his closing 72, which propelled him to a four-stroke victory in the Farmers Insurance Open over the defending champion, Brandt Snedeker (69), and Josh Teater (69). Woods now stands seven victories behind Sam Snead’s record 82.
“Does it feel good?” Woods said. “Yes. Does it give me confidence? Absolutely. This is a nice way to start the year.”
Woods, who finished at 14-under 274, was ahead by eight strokes with five holes left. On a brisk, windy day marked by snail-like play because of the fog-delayed shotgun finish, Woods lost his concentration and his accuracy off the tee but never his lead, which was four at the conclusion of Sunday afternoon’s third round.
“I started to lose my patience out there a little bit with the slow play,” Woods said, “and that’s when I made a few mistakes.” Not that he was worried. “I had an eight-stroke lead,” he said. “So I just needed to stay upright and I was going to be fine.”
Woods, 37, has won this tournament seven times. After five of his previous six titles, he has gone on to win at least one Major.
Does Woods have his aura back? “I won this tournament by four shots, so that’s something I’m proud of,” he said, adding, “I would like to win eight, nine times a year.”
It took Woods’ threesome nearly four hours to complete its final 11 holes. Until the wind and the waiting wore him down, Woods’ play harked back to his performance here during his injury-shortened season in 2008, when he won his sixth tournament title with a record eight-stroke victory against Ryuji Imada. Five months later, he won the US Open on the same course.
As was the case in Woods’ glory days, he pulled away from the pack on the par 5s. Snedeker played the par 5s in minus-6. Woods played the same holes in minus-12, which was reason enough for him to smile despite his finish: bogey, double bogey, par, bogey, par.
“Pretty much did everything well this week and built myself a nice little cushion,” Woods said. “I had some mistakes at the end, but all my good play before that really allowed me to afford those mistakes.”
If there was a single shot Monday that signalled that the Woods of old was back, it was his second on the par-5 ninth.
On the tee box, Woods backed off his ball after hearing the click of a camera, a common sound in any Woods gallery but particularly so on this day, when the gates were opened to the non-paying public.
After glaring at the offending photographer, Woods set up again for his shot and blocked the ball with a swing so loose his driver flew out of his hands. “Thank you,” he said in a comment directed at the photographer, who had wisely moved on. “It was not a good time to do that,” Woods said later.
He was still steaming as he walked off the tee, muttering an expletive under his breath as he walked toward his ball, which was right of the cart path, in a fenced-off area near a temporary tournament tent.
After receiving a free drop, Woods took his 3-iron and hit a 217-yard cut shot that landed on the fairway, 85 yards from the pin. He hit onto the green and two-putted for a par that was routine only in his world.
When he arrived at No. 15, a 480-yard par-4, Woods was seven strokes ahead of Snedeker, the leader in the clubhouse. He hit his drive out of bounds to the left to set up a two-putt from 13 feet for a double bogey.
Woods hit five fairways in his fourth round after finding 12 of 14 in his second. In his best years, Woods was never the straightest off the tee. His genius was evident in his recovery shots, like the one he hit out of the bunker on the par-3 11th that curled to within inches of the cup.
“My short game was back to how I know it can be,” Woods said. He added, “That allowed me to save some pars, save some birdies and move my way up the board.”