Torrey Pines a good gauge for Tiger

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He was runner-up at the Masters that year, and then had arthroscopic surgery to repair some cartilage damage in his left knee that caused him to miss Quail Hollow and The Players Championship. He was getting ready for the U.S. Open when doctors found two stress fractures of the left tibia and recommended six weeks off, which he ignored.

So when he showed up at Torrey Pines, the opening round was the first time he had walked 18 holes since the final at the Masters.

Of his 14 majors, this was among the most remarkable, foremost because of the injury.

“Here I am just talking about it and my hands are sweating just thinking about the feeling I had to get through each and every day,” Woods said Tuesday. “Just trying to get up and having to warm up again and go to the gym. I just don’t want to move. Then having to get out here and warm up and trying not to show you guys and any of my competitors what I was feeling. It was a very difficult week.”

But it was at Torrey Pines.

Could he have won the U.S. Open in that kind of physical shape had it been played anywhere else?

“Yeah,” he said.

But did it help that it was Torrey Pines?

“Yeah, definitely. Probably those three courses I just mentioned,” he said, referring to Torrey, Firestone and Augusta.

Woods won a Junior World Championship at Torrey Pines as a teenager. He first came to the course with his father for the Andy Williams Invitational, spending most of his time watching the California players _ Mark O’Meara, John Cook, Corey Pavin. He recalled seeing Andy Bean reach the par-5 18th in two shots.

It’s different now. The world watches him. That much was evident when he finished the 18th hole of a practice round on a cool, quiet morning. The golf course, which had been so quiet, came to life with a few hundred rushing over to a walkway with hopes of an autograph, and the pounding of steps heard on a bridge as two dozen photographers trampled behind him.

McIlroy is taking the next month off. The field at Torrey Pines includes Dustin Johnson, Masters champion Bubba Watson, defending champion Brandt Snedeker, Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson. But it’s still Torrey Pines. This is where a healthy and happy Woods is usually at his best.

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