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Woods' repeat displays have Augusta connotations

Out of Bounds
January 30, 2013
Tiger Woods won easily at Torrey Pines - not for the first time in his career © Getty Images
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After Monday's comfortable - if painfully delayed - victory at the Farmers Insurance Open, Tiger Woods was left to celebrate an eighth professional victory around Torrey Pines.

One of those - the famous 2008 US Open - was in a major. In five of the other six years he won around the California course at the start of the year, he then went on to win one of the game's biggest prizes later in the same campaign.

A major, of course, is the 37-year-old's big ambition for 2013. Woods is renowned for knowing every stat going - but apparently he was not aware of his prior record around one of his favourite courses, despite the positive omen it might now have for the campaign ahead.

"I didn't know those stats, sorry," Woods said, chuckling to himself. "Does it feel good [to win]? Yes. Does it give me confidence? Absolutely. But as far as the other stuff, as I said, I'm excited about this year.

"I'm excited about what I'm doing with Sean [Foley, his swing coach] and some of the things that I've built. This is a nice way to start the year."

Woods was eight shots clear at one point in the final round - before a combination of slow play (as a glut of three-balls crawled around the course, a byproduct of Saturday's fog out) and errant shots crept into his play.

Nevertheless, the eventual four-shot margin of triumph had some big names speaking in hushed tones about the quality of his current play.

"I don't know if anybody would have beaten him this week," said Nick Watney, who - as a new Nike team-mate of Woods - may have a certain 'commercial incentive' to play up the standard of the world No. 2's play. "He's definitely on his game."

Hunter Mahan, who shares coach Sean Foley with Woods, believed it was the addition of another new name to the Nike stable that had the American eager to return to action in the United States with a dominant performance.

"I think he wanted to send a message," Mahan said. "I think deep down he did. You play some games to try to motivate yourself.

"There's been so much talk about Rory [McIlroy]. Rory is now with Nike. That would be my guess."

The errant shots on Monday, however, give some cause for concern. Woods was virtually perfect on Saturday - hitting the ball deadly straight off the tee, and leaving himself with a series of short birdie putts at many holes with his irons - but in the final round things changed.

Just as they appeared to do at crunch times in 2012, Woods could not find his 'safe swing' when he really needed to. In the end only the margin of advantage enabled him to still cross the line with the win, although the man himself insisted that wasn't a fair interpretation of events.

"In the end I just started losing my patience," Woods said of his sloppy close, which included two bogeys and a double in the final five holes. "It was so slow out there. We played nine holes in just over three hours and three of them are par threes. That's not fast.

Tiger Woods was far from perfect on Monday © Getty Images
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"As I said, I had an eight-shot lead. So just needed to stay up right, and I was going to be fine."

If that is the case, then attention will rightfully turn to the first major of the year, The Masters at Augusta National.

Woods has won four times at the Georgia course in his career and, as he showed at Torrey Pines, has recently had a great habit of continuing impressive records at courses he has played well at before.

In 2012, two of his three wins - the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial Tournament - came at events that he had previously won six and four times respectively.

Now, at the turn of a new campaign, comes a seventh win at the Farmers Insurance Open. If Woods continues such a trend of repeating on courses he favours, then he must be considered to have a great chance of winning the Masters in April.

But then you worry about those errant shots he exhibited down the stretch. And the way, in the majors in 2012, that Woods' swing would fall apart on him towards the end of tournaments - in almost exactly the same manner.

And you wonder if maybe there is still a bit more work he needs to do on his swing before he's all there for majors once again.

He's got a few months to get those facets in order, however. And who knows, by that time he might be strongly challenging McIlroy - not just for Nike supremacy, but also for that No. 1 ranking he held for so long.

"You've got to be consistently winning [to be No. 1]," Woods noted. "That's how I got there. That's how he got there.

"As I said, in order for me to get back there, that's what I have to do - and this is a nice start."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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