Woods' return is all the rage at Farmers Insurance Open (Jan 25, 2017)

BY AP • January 25, 2017

All the talk at this week's Farmers Insurance Open is that 14-time major champion Tiger Woods is set to tee it up in his first official PGA Tour round since August 2015.

It's a compelling storyline, but there are myriad other draws for attention that might be flying under the radar as 156 golfers begin play Thursday at the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, Calif.

First things, first -- all eyes will be focused on Woods, at least for the first two days of the tournament. The focus won't just be for his much-anticipated comeback to official play after multiple back surgeries.

Woods has won at Torrey Pines eight times as a pro, garnering the Farmers Insurance Open seven times (1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2013) and earning his most recent major title via playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open when that tournament was played on just the South Course. He is the only player in PGA Tour history to win on the same golf course eight times.

Only Woods and Phil Mickelson have more than two wins in the event (Mickelson won in 1993, 2000 and 2001).

"I know how to shoot scores," Woods said. "If my back feels good, and I can prepare, then I know I can play. And I know I can win golf tournaments. Oh, and I've actually won (at Torrey Pines) once as a junior, so it's technically nine. I like that place -- for some reason it just fits my eye.

"I'm excited about playing this week -- I'm playing well. I feel good about my health. I sat out long enough."

Defending champion Brandt Snedeker, who was the only player to shoot under-par in last year's final round, heads a field that also includes three of the top six players in the Official World Golf Ranking. World No. 1 Jason Day, No. 3 Dustin Johnson and No. 6 Hideki Matsuyama are on that list.

"It's always great to be in San Diego -- this course holds (a) special place in my heart," Snedeker said. "Being the defending champion is a special feeling. The course is in good shape and it's going to be a tough task because the rough is thick. It should be a fun week, especially with having Tiger back."

Seven past champions are in the field: Snedeker (2016, 2012), Day (2015), Scott Stallings (2014), Woods, Ben Crane (2010), Nick Watney (2009) and Mickelson.

Hudson Swafford, last week's winner at the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, Calif., is also playing in the field.

Six of the eight different winners on the PGA Tour in 2016-17 will also vie for the $6.7 million purse, $1.206 million of which goes to this week's champion.

Each player will compete for one round at Torrey Pines' North Course, which reopened in late November after a nine-month, $12.6 renovation. World Golf Hall of Famer player Tom Weiskopf, who won his first PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines in 1968, served as architect for the renovation.

One of the most important changes to the North Course is the reversal of its two nines to allow players to finish their rounds along the ocean and canyons. Green speeds and firmness are now comparable to the South Course, a critical improvement for competition, and the sizes of the putting surfaces were increased by an average of 42 percent allowing for more hole locations.

This tournament is the 11th event of the PGA Tour's wraparound schedule that bridges two calendar years with 47 competitions. The 2016-17 season included seven events during the fall of 2016, each of which awarded FedExCup points and, after a seven-week break, the season resumed three weeks ago at the SBS Tournament of Champions.

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