(Reuters) - Tiger Woods hopes the familiar surroundings of Torrey Pines will ease his transition to tournament golf when he plays in his first full tournament field in 17 months starting on Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open.
Woods, who last played a regular PGA Tour event in August 2015, has fond memories of the southern California setting after winning the tournament seven times on a layout where he also won the 2008 U.S. Open for the last of his 14 major titles.
The 41-year-old Woods, who was sidelined by back pain and a series of back surgeries, plunges into his comeback with a string of tournament appearances.
“We all know I haven’t played a full schedule in a very long time so this is an unknown,” said Woods, who played in Wednesday’s Pro-Am to have a look at the revamped North Course.
“One of the reasons why I’m playing four out of five (weeks) is to get into the rhythm of playing competitive golf again. I’ve been away for so long.
“It’s nice to start here at Torrey, also to go to another place, at Dubai, where I’ve won before as well.”
After Torrey Pines, Woods will compete in the Feb. 2-5 Dubai Desert Classic, the Feb. 16-19 Genesis Open at Riviera before heading home to Florida for the Feb. 23-26 Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens.
Woods will also be getting used to new equipment, having announced on Wednesday that he will play TaylorMade clubs given Nike’s exit from the golf hard goods business.
A TaylorMade driver, three-wood and five-wood will be in his bag along with his Nike irons while his new provider customizes irons for him. Woods will also continue using the Scotty Cameron putter he swung to win all but one of his majors.
During the Pro-Am, Woods hit his irons beautifully, but was hit and miss with his short game on the rain-softened course.
At the par-four sixth, a weak chip left him 10 feet short but he made the par putt. At the par-five ninth he tried a flop shot over a greenside bunker but landed in the sand. A brilliant splash out put him inches from the cup for another rescued par.
On Thursday it all counts for real as Woods tees off at 1:40 p.m. ET (1840 GMT) in a marquee grouping with world number one Jason Day and number three Dustin Johnson.
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue