Woods begins his 2014 season at Torrey Pines
The familiar surroundings of Torrey Pines along the coastline north of San Diego greet Tiger Woods as he pulls on the spikes for the first time in 2014, a season brimming with opportunity for the world number one and 14-time major champion.
A successful defence of his Farmers Insurance Open title would set a PGA Tour record for most victories by a player at the one venue, a record Woods holds with himself with eight victories each at Torrey Pines, Bay Hill and Firestone.
Tiger Woods (Credit: Anthony Powter)
Woods has won in five of his past six appearances at Torrey Pines and despite being inactive since finishing runner-up to Zach Johnson at his World Challenge event in December, he will be hard to back against.
Woods begins 2014 in the hunt for a number of records with Sam Snead’s high mark of 82 PGA Tour victories well within grasp. Woods currently sits on 79 career wins and a repeat of his five-win season in 2013 would see the record caught and passed.
As he has been doing for the past six years, since his 2008 US Open win at Torrey Pines, Woods will start a season in the hunt for his 15th major title and Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.
Woods is looking forward to the majors of 2014 with an additional spring in his step as he has tasted victory at three of the venues (Augusta National, Royal Liverpool and Valhalla – although the course has changed significantly after extensive renovation) and finished third and second respectively in the past two US Opens at Pinehurst, where this year’s Open will be staged.
Adding to the historical significance of the year is that Nicklaus won his 15th major (’78 British Open) at age 38, the same age Woods turned in December.
If Woods needed any further inspiration to hit the ground running however, he is also being ‘hunted’ by a chasing pack who aspire to arrest the sport’s world number one ranking from him for the first time.
The immediate chasers, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson, have had mixed starts to the year but San Diego resident Phil Mickelson (No. 5) has his own agenda for 2014 – with a career Grand Slam in his sights at Pinehurst – and is also making a play for the top spot.
Mickelson joins Woods in the field at Torrey Pines fresh from a runner-up finish on the European Tour in Abu Dhabi, guaranteeing another absorbing clash between one of the ‘hunters’ and the ‘hunted’.