Buttitta: Here's hoping Tiger's return is longer than his last one

Buttitta: Here's hoping Tiger's return is longer than his last one”

Tiger Woods returns to US PGA Tour competition on Thursday (Friday in Manila) playing alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman in the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

Woods, who has barely played in three years due to a serious back injury, returned after a 10-month absence when he took part in the unofficial Hero World Challenge, finishing a respectable ninth out of 18 players and swinging with apparent freedom.

This remarkable run has left Rahm, a mature-beyond-his-years 23-year-old, ranked No. 2 in the world, having surpassed three-time major victor Jordan Spieth and reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Justin Thomas, who had a season for the ages in 2017.

Woods's fourth straight win in the tournament immediately stamped him the favorite for the US Open to be held on the Torrey Pines South course four months later. Asked on Wednesday how he knows his back is significantly better than it was this time a year ago, Woods replied simply, "I have no more pain".

Rahm is in decent form too, having won in Palm Springs last week, which propelled him up to 2nd spot in the World Rankings - at this point previous year he was down in 137th - and should he win this week h'lle storm into top spot. But as 2016/17 proved, Torrey Pines is a far cry from Albany Golf Course. I haven't seen a lot of these guys play.

"I'm looking forward to playing a full schedule and getting ready for the Masters".

"I went through every single procedure that is non-surgical and it just didn't get better", he said of his back and his make or break decision to have two vertebrae in his lower spine fused.

Yes, it has been nearly 10 years since Tiger won a major. That was the first victory of a five-win season, and the last time we thought Tiger was truly "back".

'I've got to start somewhere.

Day is also making his first start for 2018 after last playing at the Australian Open in Sydney in November, where he led going into the final round only to fade to a fifth-placed finish.

"I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win".

A relaxed and happy Tiger Woods gave his body a thumbs-up on Wednesday and said he wanted to play a full schedule leading up to the U.S. Masters in April.

His last outing was in December at the Hero World Challenge and it was a very positive week for the 14-time major victor who impressed with a T9th finish in the elite 18-man field.

However, 30-year-old Day said expectations had to be tempered about the 79-time PGA Tour winner's return.

He arrived at Torrey Pines - the site of eight of his wins - with fused disks in his back, some hints of optimism, but absolutely no clue how he will perform. He has said that there were times when the pain had been so bad he couldn't get out of bed.

"I did an interview just earlier where I said that Tiger, just having Tiger in the conversation in golf is huge", he added.

"I don't know what the number is going to be. The more big-time players we have on Tour, the better it is for the game globally and he's obviously one of those". But they'll send a crew over to the South for "bonus coverage" to show Tiger's round right from start at 1:40 p.m. ET. I hope to do the same again in a few weeks.

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