Is Tiger worth backing at Torrey Pines?

The Scoop

Tiger Woods will make his 2018 bow at the Farmers Insurance Open this week, but should you be putting money on him? Alex Perry and Mark Townsend disagree in Alternate Shot

Yes, says Alex Perry

It would be easy to just write: “It’s Tiger Woods.”

So I will.

It’s Tiger Woods.

Whether you’ve been a golf fan for 20 years or 20 minutes, you will know that anything is possible in this sport – particularly when it comes to Tiger.

Torrey Pines is a course he loves and a course he’s historically done well at. Yes, I know, he missed the cut there last year in that comeback, but this is a new Tiger, a reformed Tiger, a Tiger which is probably somewhere around version 6.3.

Whatever the tournament, whatever the field, Tiger was the heavy favourite. No questions asked. If he started, he expected and was expected to win.

Tiger is 20/1 to win in California. The players above Tiger in the betting are Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Rose. All fair enough – all players in form.

But so is Jason Day. Wait, what? You’ve been watching the Australian in the last year or so, right?

And word on the street is Tiger is looking every bit his old self – the Tiger that we grew up with dominating all corners of the globe. We got a little glimpse of how good things could be at the Hero World Challenge in December and I see no evidence of him not continuing that into 2018.

Remember when we all said he wouldn’t win X tournament because of X reason and then he went and won it?

At 20/1, I’ll be having some money on him at that price.

No, says Mark Townsend

Tiger Woods

Just below Tiger on the betting lists is Marc Leishman, the World No 13, a player who is generally bang in form most weeks and a two-time winner in 2017. Does Woods have a better chance of winning than the Aussie or Brian Harman for that matter whose worst finish is 20th from his seven starts on the 2017-18 season?

Of course he doesn’t. Yes, yes he’s Tiger Woods, he’s won at Torrey Pines nine times, including THAT US Open and a junior title, he’s won 14 majors, he’s the GOAT. But, while we were all going bananas in the Bahamas in early December, that is a whole world away from a full-field PGA Tour event, away from a wide-open resort course, with more distractions and more fans. And for all the hoopla down there he finished 10 behind Rickie Fowler.

The positives from the Hero were remarkable, his driving and long irons occasionally bordering on sensational, and the comments from his playing partners in recent months have been nothing less than buoyant but these things take time. They have to. He hasn’t played a PGA Tour event in a year, he hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since 2013, he has been in contention on Sunday twice since that win at the Bridgestone.

If he’s still going strong and playing on a regular basis in six months then the Open and mid-season events should be fascinating. For now, as Tiger would say, it’s just a ‘process’ and he needs to get the ‘reps’ in.

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