Be it age or injury, Woods now begins year at a slower pace

Tiger Woods waits to hit his tee shot on the 11th hole of the South Course at Torrey Pines Golf Course during the final round of the Farmers Insurance golf tournament Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Tiger Woods wrapped up his week at Torrey Pines with a 67 to tie for 20th and said it was good to shake off some rust and see what needs work. It was his first competition in seven weeks, and only his second event since the Ryder Cup ended on Oct. 1.

Whether it’s because of age or injury — both are relevant — keep in mind that for the first 12 years of his pro career, Woods never finished outside the top 10 in his first event of the year, winning six times. The streak ended at the Match Play in 2009 after he sat out eight months recovering from reconstructive knee surgery.

Dating to 2009, he has finished in the top 10 just twice in his first event of the year — a tie for fourth in the 2010 Masters and a tie for third in Abu Dhabi in 2012.

Even at his best, and when healthy, when Woods didn’t win his first start of the year it was written off in some corners as spring training. Everything was geared toward that first full week at Augusta National. In some respects, that remains true.

It’s about peaking four weeks every year, and Woods said that starts “months out.”

But when does it become important to start seeing results?

“Just want to keep building, keep getting more crisp,” Woods said. “It’s hard to peak for four major championships. It’s not easy. I’ve only done it 14 times.”

Most players would love to peak at majors half as much — if that many — in their careers. While conceding that “only” 14 sounds like a lot, Woods put it into context by referencing Jack Nicklaus winning “only” 18 times in 164 majors.

“It’s not easy to do,” said Woods, who has played 80 majors, six as an amateur. “It’s hard to have mind, body and soul come together at the same time. Luckily in this sport, we have four chances per year.”

What has his attention this year is not getting ready for the Masters, but the quick turnaround for the next one, with the PGA Championship moving to May. Last year, for example, there were nine weeks between the Masters and the U.S. Open. Now, there are four weeks between the Masters and the PGA.

“It’s very different because it feels like it’s our Players Championship week,” Woods said. “I’m familiar with the new date where we are with the Players (March). That’s not a big change for me. But having the PGA in May is going to be a little bit different.”

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