Tiger Woods and his son Charlie walked onto the course Sunday in the 15-time major winner's signature red, and the pair nearly pulled out some of the vaunted Woods magic on the final day at the PNC Championship.

Team Woods turned in a bogey-free round in the scramble event and finished in second place at 25 under par, two strokes back of John Daly and his son John II at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando.

Woods and his 12-year-old son recorded an eagle on the third hole and carded 11 consecutive birdies from number seven through 17 to put themselves in contention, but just being on the course was victory enough for the legend.

"We got on a nice heater,'' Woods told reporters. "Charlie was hitting the ball unbelievable. [Winning] would have had a special meaning in my heart for sure, there's no doubt about that. And it still does.

"The fact that I'm able to have this opportunity this year, even a couple weeks ago we didn't really know whether or not I would be doing this, but here we are.

"And we had just the best time ever, and I just wish I could have walked down the fairways with him and been side-by-side with him the entire time like we were last year.''

Woods used a cart for nearly the entire round as he continues to recover from the February car crash that left him with severe injuries to his right leg and foot.

The former world number one will turn 46 on December 30 and said he knows he will never play a full PGA Tour schedule again, though he hopes to "pick and choose" some events to play in once he gets closer to full strength.

His playing partner Sunday, Matt Kuchar, said he felt Woods' game was good enough to compete now, but Woods vehemently disagreed with that notion, saying: "I'm not at that level."

While his future inevitably came to mind Sunday, Woods was more interested in reflecting on what it took to get back out and play against his long-time friends and rivals the last two days.

"The competitive juices, they are never going to go away," he said. "This is my environment. This is what I've done my entire life. I'm just so thankful to be able to have this opportunity to do it again.

"Earlier this year was not a very good start to the year, and it didn't look very good. But the last few weeks, to push as hard as we have the last seven months … and to have this opportunity to be able to play with my son and to have these memories, it's worth all the pain."

Fifteen-time major winner Tiger Woods says it was a "blast" to return to the course for the first time since February's car crash that left him with severe leg injuries.

Woods played alongside his 12-year-old son Charlie at the PNC Championship in Orlando on Saturday, marking his return to competitive golf.

The pair shot a 10-under round of 62 in the father-son event, where Stewart and Reagan Cink lead after carding 59 on the opening day.

"We had a great time," Woods told reporters. “It was just a blast and we had a blast last year on the first day, it was the same.

"We had so much fun out there. We had one thing we wanted to do. We wanted to keep a clean card. Last year we made a bogey in each round."

Woods had a few flashes of his former brilliance, including a fine four iron on the third hole which landed within feet of the hole, along with a three-wood second shot on the par-five 14th.

The former world number one, who moved around on a cart between shots, admitted the round was physically challenging, having previously stated he will never return to the tour in a full-time capacity.

"I'm tired," Woods added. "I'm not in golf shape. It's just like anything: if you don't have the endurance, you start slowing down.

"I hit two good shots today - well, three that came off exactly how I wanted to, by old numbers.

"But as I explained to you guys down in the Bahamas, I don't have endurance. I haven't played. This is, what, my fourth, fifth round the entire year? I don't have any golf endurance."

Woods played alongside Justin and Mike Thomas, who are equal second after a 12-under 60. Former PGA Championship winner Justin said he was impressed by Woods upon his return.

"I was so impressed by the speed that he had and the shots he was hitting," Thomas told reporters. "At least from my perspective, it looked like a lot of the moves and everything were there.

"It just was if anything, a little short, which is probably - naturally, you would think he's not going to hit it as far ... but man, like that four-iron he hit into three today, that was just ridiculous."

Tiger Woods warned a competitive return to golf remains a "long way off" after the 15-time major champion made his comeback alongside son Charlie at Friday's PNC Championship pro-am.

Woods is on the comeback trail after a single-car crash in February left him with open fractures to the tibia and fibula in his right leg.

The American superstar, who previously revealed he had feared the limb would have to be amputated, has not played competitively since the accident.

Woods, though, was back on the course on Friday with his 12-year-old son at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, where the 45-year-old took part in the pro-am before Saturday's PNC Championship opening round.

However, Woods insisted a full-time return to the PGA Tour is far from imminent as he stays patient.

"It was an awesome day," Woods said. "It was just awesome to be back out here playing and being out there with my son, and we just had an absolute blast."

"[But] It's going to be a while [a competitive comeback]. I couldn't walk this golf course even right now and it's flat. I don't have the endurance.

"My leg is not quite right yet and it's going to take time. I'm a long way from playing tournament golf.

"This is hit, hop in a cart and move about my business. Being able to play tournament golf and being able to recover, practice and train and hit balls after a round and do all of the things that I need to be at a high level? I'm a long way away from that."

Woods added: "I'm just starting to get back into trying to play again. So I don't quite have the endurance that I would like to have. I've still got the hands, I've still the feel.

"Unfortunately sometimes the feel doesn't really match up with the speed or the shot that I'm seeing, so that's one of the things that Joe [LaCava, Woods' caddie] and I were talking about.

"The ball is not quite flying as far as I'd like or I'm used to and so we have to talk about some of the numbers and some of the shots and making some of those small adjustments."

Woods, meanwhile, strongly dismissed the prospect of using a buggy in full-time competition – the veteran would require a medical exemption.

"Absolutely not," he said. "Not for a PGA Tour event, no. That's just not who I am. That's not how I've always been, and if I can't play at that level, I can't play at that level. But this is a different event. This is a fun event."

Tiger Woods has announced that he will make his comeback at the PNC Championship next week.

The tournament sees a field of major champions compete alongside their children or parents and takes place between December 16 and 19 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando.

Woods suffered open fractures to the tibia and fibula in his right leg after a car crash in February and has not played competitively since.

The 45-year-old has ruled out a full-time return, but revealed his desire to play on a part-time basis and will officially make his comeback at the upcoming event alongside his son, Charlie.

The pair played in the competition last year, finishing in joint-seventh place.

"Although it's been a long and challenging year, I am very excited to close it out by competing in the PNC Championship with my son Charlie," Woods, a 15-time major winner, wrote on social media. 

"I'm playing as a dad and couldn't be more excited and proud."

Woods' return to competitive action was welcomed by Alastair Johnston, the tournament's executive chairman.

"I am delighted to confirm that Tiger and Charlie Woods will be participating in the 2021 PNC Championship," Johnston said. 

"We have been liaising with Tiger and his team for some time and are delighted that he has now decided to make his return to competitive golf at the PNC Championship."

Viktor Hovland turned the impossible possible on Sunday, overcoming a six-stroke deficit to win the Hero World Challenge.

Collin Morikawa was five shots clear at the start of the final round as the American closed in on the world number one ranking, but Hovland had other ideas in the Bahamas.

On a chaotic day, Hovland – in his first start since claiming the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba – rallied to a stunning one-shot victory with consecutive eagles and a birdie from the 14th and 16th holes.

Despite bogeying his last two holes, Hovland signed for a 66 and the winners' cheque at 18 under, ahead of Scottie Scheffler (66) in front of tournament host and 15-time major champion Tiger Woods as Morikawa capitulated in a final-round 76.

"I didn't think a win was going to be very possible," said the 24-year-old Norwegian star Hovland. "But I know this course is tricky.

"You can make birdies, but it's easy to make bogeys and doubles. If I put a good score up there, you never know what's going to happen."

An unofficial PGA Tour event, Hovland insisted the win felt like an official one given the star-studded field.

"Hell, yeah! There's only 20 guys in the field, but the players here are really good, and I feel like my wins have come when the field hasn't been as strong, so for me to do well in a field like this gives me a lot of confidence," he added.

Morikawa appeared poised to add another piece of silverware to his collection in pursuit of golf's top ranking, but the reigning Open Championship winner crumbled, missing three birdie chances from 10 feet or closer to start the round.

Two triple-bogeys and a bogey capped a forgettable front nine for Morikawa, who dropped another shot at his final hole to end the event tied for fifth – four shots adrift of Hovland, alongside Justin Thomas (64).

Sam Burns shot a three-under-par 69 to earn a share of third spot with former Masters champion Patrick Reed (69).

A four-time major winner, Brooks Koepka had to settle for a slice of ninth position at Albany Golf Club following his two-over-par 74.

Bryson DeChambeau – beaten by rival Koepka in their exhibition showdown in Las Vegas – closed with consecutive rounds in the 70s after going two over on the fourth day.

Former world number one Rory McIlroy (75) ended the tournament 12 shots back, while Jordan Spieth's nightmare Hero World Challenge resulted in a six-over-par display after shooting a 76.

Tiger Woods wants to make his return to professional golf in next year's Open Championship at St Andrews, his "favourite golf course in the world."

The former world number one and 15-time major champion suffered serious injuries to his right leg after a car crash in February and previously revealed he had feared the limb would have to be amputated.

However, the 45-year-old is now targeting a part-time comeback to competitive golf and has his eyes on a tournament that is particularly special to him.

"I would love to play at St Andrews, no doubt about it," Woods said. "It's my favourite golf course in the world. Even the Champions' Dinner is really neat to be part of.

"I attended my first one in 2005 and Peter Thomson was still alive at that time. I was sat next to him and to hear him tell his stories was awesome.

"It's like at the Masters. Those dinners are priceless. It's an honour to be part of a room like that.

"I'd love to be able to play that Open Championship and hopefully I can."

Woods had previously returned from major back surgery to claim a shock 2019 Masters victory but on Monday he ruled out a full-time return this time around.

He accepts his days at the very top of the sport are likely over after the injuries he sustained earlier this year, though Woods was philosophical about the situation.

"I don't foresee this leg ever being what it used to be," Woods added on Tuesday. "The clock's ticking. I'm not getting any younger.

"I won't have the opportunity to practice [the way I used to] given the condition of my leg. That's okay.

"As far as playing at the tour level, I don't know when that's going to happen. I'll play a round here and there. A hit and giggle.

"To see some of my shots fall out of the sky a lot shorter than they used to is eye-opening but at least I'm able to do it again."

Tiger Woods is hoping to return to professional golf on a part-time basis and revealed that he feared he would have to have his leg amputated following serious injuries sustained in a car crash in February.

Woods suffered open fractures to his right tibia and fibula in the accident in California and the 45-year-old explained that losing his leg was a serious possibility.

The 15-time major champion accepts that he will never return to the sport on a full-time basis, but believes he can play occasionally if his leg recovers fully.

"I think something that is realistic is playing the [PGA] tour one day – never full time, ever again – but pick and choose, just like Mr [Ben] Hogan did," Woods told Golf Digest. "Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that.

"It's an unfortunate reality, but it's my reality and I understand it and I accept it. There was a point in time when, I wouldn't say it was 50-50, but it was damn near there if I was going to walk out of that hospital with one leg."

Woods was previously forced to go through a number of operations on his back, but recovered well enough to claim a shock 2019 Masters victory.

This time around, however, he says he will be more conservative.

"I don't have to compete and play against the best players in the world to have a great life," Woods continued.

"After my back fusion, I had to climb Mount Everest one more time. I had to do it, and I did. This time around, I don't think I'll have the body to climb Mount Everest and that's okay.

"I can still participate in the game of golf. I can still, if my leg gets okay, I can still click off a tournament here or there. But as far as climbing the mountain again and getting all the way to the top, I don't think that's a realistic expectation of me."

Los Angeles police said in April that Woods' crash was caused by excessive speeds that led him to lose control of the vehicle he was driving.

Police examined data recorded from the vehicle – a 2021 Genesis GV80 SUV – and found he was driving at speeds in excess of 80mph in an area with a 45mph speed limit.

He was travelling at an estimated 75mph when he hit a tree, with officers believing the five-time Masters champion might have inadvertently hit the accelerator instead of the brake as there was no evidence of braking.

Three seconds was all it took for Tiger Woods to show he may just have a golfing future.

The 15-time major winner, whose career has been in doubt since he was severely injured in a high-speed car crash in February, released a short video on Sunday showing him playing an iron shot.

It was the first time the world has seen the all-time great swing a club since he was lucky to escape with his life from that scrape.

Woods, 45, badly fractured his right leg and needed emergency surgery after his single-car smash in California, while he also sustained foot and ankle injuries.

Extensive rehabilitation has followed, and the former long-time world number one is up to hitting balls again, representing a huge step forward in his recovery.

In the brief clip, he is shown in shorts, with a protective stocking over his right leg. Although the video shows Woods hitting only one shot, he is on the range with a bucket of balls at the ready.

He posted the video along with a short message – "Making progress".

It raises hopes – for Woods and fans of golf – that the American superstar may be able to return to competition on the PGA Tour, perhaps as soon as next year.

Woods said in May that his objective was to be able to walk again unaided, but it appears he is now well past that stage.

Los Angeles police said in April that Woods' crash was caused by excessive speeds that led him to lose control of the vehicle he was driving.

Police examined data recorded from the vehicle – a 2021 Genesis GV80 SUV – and found he was driving at speeds in excess of 80mph in an area with a 45mph speed limit.

He was travelling at an estimated 75mph when he hit a tree, with officers believing the five-time Masters champion might have inadvertently hit the accelerator instead of the brake as there was no evidence of braking.

Tiger Woods can pick his role for the 2022 Presidents Cup in Charlotte, insisted United States captain Davis Love III.

Woods captained Team USA to Presidents Cup glory over the Internationals in Melbourne in 2019, but the future of the 15-time major champion remains uncertain following a serious car crash in February.

The 45-year-old is recovering after suffering a comminuted open fracture in his right leg, which required emergency surgery, while also sustaining additional injuries to his foot and ankle as a result of the single-vehicle incident in California.

Woods missed this year's Ryder Cup, with the American superstar yet to play an official event since the postponed 2020 Masters in November last year.

Love said he would be more than happy to have Woods serve as one of his assistants at Quail Hollow next year – the Presidents Cup will start on September 20.

"It would have been a great captaincy for Tiger to continue on," Love said on Tuesday. "At the time we were discussing it, he said, 'No, I'm playing really good. I'm gonna make the team, and I enjoyed Australia being playing captain, but I want to be a player on the team.'

"So his role is whatever his role wants to be. If Tiger calls me up and says, 'Hey, you're kicked out, I'm taking over' -- that's Tiger's role.

"If he wants to be an assistant, you know ... I would hope that he comes back and starts playing and can make that a goal, to be on the team."

On Woods' involvement during the Ryder Cup, Love added: "It took us a while to get him to the point where he would engage. Obviously he had a rough start to the year, but once we got him in the loop, he was a big help and a lot of fun for the Ryder Cup and for the team.

"Obviously the guys were going to see him down there in South Florida all summer. He can do whatever, and I know he'll be a big part of it."

Love continued: "Tiger went from a guy we didn't know to now he's a leader and an inside guy. So he has good information on some of the players that we don't know.

"He was really helpful in captains' picks. I think for me, in '16 [when Love was Ryder Cup captain and Woods was an assistant] and then as an assistant captain, he's very helpful in strategy and pairings. He's a tactician. He watches a lot more golf than I do, so he has a lot of information."

Bryson DeChambeau insisted the job is not over for the United States after racing clear of Europe on day one in their quest to wrestle back the Ryder Cup.

Team USA have their biggest opening-day lead at the Ryder Cup since 1975 thanks to a dominant start – DeChambeau and his team-mates earning a commanding 6-2 advantage on Friday.

Ryder Cup holders Europe struggled for answers at Whistling Straits, where hosts USA starred in the morning foursomes and afternoon four-balls.

DeChambeau teamed up with Ryder Cup rookie Scottie Scheffler in the four-ball, halving their matchup against world number one Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.

Powerhouse DeChambeau hit an astonishing 417-yard drive on the 581-yard par-five fifth hole, setting up an eagle to put himself and Scheffler one up in their four-ball contest with Rahm and Hatton.

Reflecting on the team's red-hot start, DeChambeau told reporters: "Proud of the team. Super proud.

"They fought hard every single shot out there, from what I saw, and, again, looking back on it, this is a great start, but the job's not over. We have two more days. A lot more golf. And we cannot lose our mindset to win."

On DeChambeau's fifth-hole bomb, Scheffler added: "That was probably the most excited he's ever been on a golf course was on number five. That wind, we had it on one of our practice days, and we figured out what he needed to do, so to have an opportunity to do that in competition was amazing. I was jacked up for him as well.

"I think he pushed it a little bit, but he smashed it. So thankfully he pushed it just a touch. If he pulls that ball at all, it's weird, there are two towers behind the green, I can't even describe to you - they are like 250 or 200 yards right of where I'm trying to hit my drive, and it's crazy for him to be able to commit to that shot.

"I know he's very happy to make a three as well; if he made a five, he said he was probably going to go home. It was great. That was a good spark for us and good momentum for the rest of the day."

 

Tiger Woods is absent from this year's Ryder Cup as the 15-time major champion continues his recovery from the February high-speed car crash near Los Angeles that left him with serious leg injuries, and it remains to be seen whether he is capable of playing again on tour.

Despite not being among Team USA's Ryder Cup roster, the American superstar still had a telling influence on Friday, having reached out with a few words of encouragement.

Xander Schauffele revealed Woods sent a message on Thursday and Tony Finau elaborated on the text.

"Harry [Harris English] mentioned to me walking down number nine, like how cool it was that Tiger is so into it," Finau said during his post-round news conference. "I think that's the big thing is he's so invested in this team.

"He's not here physically, but you know, I think the gist of basically what he was saying was I'm cheering you guys on, I'm right there with you and go fight and make us proud.

"We were able to do that, and if TW's watching, thanks for that text, brother, I think it helps us a lot."

Tiger Woods may not be at Whistling Straits, but his influence was felt as the United States made a rip-roaring start to their Ryder Cup trophy bid.

The 45-year-old Woods is continuing his recovery from the February high-speed car crash near Los Angeles that left him with serious leg injuries, and it remains to be seen whether he is capable of playing again on tour.

But the 15-time major winner is willing the USA team to snatch back the cup from Europe, and Xander Schauffele revealed he had been in touch with a few words of encouragement.

Woods, who often struggled to take his world-beating form onto the Ryder Cup stage, had his say before the Americans raced into a 3-1 lead following the morning foursomes.

Schauffele, after teaming up with fellow debutant Patrick Cantlay to land a dazzling 5 and 3 win over Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, confirmed Woods wanted to offer help from afar.

 

"We got a nice message from Tiger last night," Schauffele said on the Golf Channel.

"I'm not going to reveal what it said, but Pat and I knew and we referred to it a few times today, and we knew what we needed to do.

"We knew he was fist-pumping from the couch. Whether he was on crutches or not, he's as fired up as anyone back at home, so it's nice to have his support."

Woods has a disappointing record of just 13 wins from 37 Ryder Cup matches, an unexpectedly weak performance given his PGA Tour and major championship prowess.

But he remains an idol for many players on the team, with Schauffele and Cantlay two of six rookies on Steve Stricker's roster this year.

Cantlay said: "[There's] no better role model and no better leader and somebody you can always learn from.

"I saw him last week at home and picked his brain on Ryder Cup and applied some of that here today."

The USA pair sped to a 5up lead through five holes on the way to their dominant victory, feeding off the largely American crowd.

A disappointed McIlroy said: "The start wasn't great. I don't know if anyone could have beat Xander and Patrick today.

"They played really good, four birdies in a row. Geez, yeah, they played great. They were a great pairing today, and all you can do is praise them for the way they played."

World number three Justin Thomas has played down the United States' favouritism at the upcoming Ryder Cup despite boasting eight of the current top 10 players in the world.

The US are seeking to re-claim the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits starting on Friday, with Europe having won seven of the past nine events. Europe has also won four of the past five Ryder Cups.

The hosts boast an excellent team, including 2021 Open Championship winner Collin Morikawa, last year's Masters' winner Dustin Johnson, last year's U.S. Open winner Bryson DeChambeau, Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Xander Schauffele and recently crowned PGA Tour Player of the Year Patrick Cantlay.

Europe only has one player currently ranked inside the top 10, being 2021 U.S. Open champion and world number one Jon Rahm.

"You can dive as deep as you want into the pairings, into who's sitting, who's playing, but at the end of the day whatever team plays the best is going to win," Thomas said.

"We have 12 unbelievable players, they have 12 unbelievable players, and it's really just who's going to go out there and get it and who's going to go out and execute the best.

"I've watched many Ryder Cups on TV, and it's who makes the putts, who flips those matches, who grinds out the halves and who gets it done. I'd go to war with these 11 other guys and our captains like I'm going to do this week, and I have all the faith in the world in all the rookies. I think their experience proves that they are beyond rookies.

"It's going to be a fun week. It was a fun week for me in France just in terms of the atmosphere and experience and all, and I'm sure the fact that it's on U.S. soil will help those nerves a little bit."

Thomas revealed he had spoken to 15-time major winner Tiger Woods, who will not join the team in Wisconsin as he continues his rehabilitation from multiple leg injuries sustained in a car crash in February.

Woods has previously been involved in the past four team events for the US in some capacity, including as captain at the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia.

"I got together with him a couple times last week," Thomas said. "More so just going over to see how he's doing as a friend, more than as a vice captain."

"He's so into it. He obviously wants the best for our team. He wants the best for all of us. It means a lot to him.

"I think people would be surprised -- obviously you all saw in Australia how much it meant to him, but just the amount of work and the amount of hours he's willing to spend to make sure that he feels like the team is prepared and as ready to go as possible is pretty cool.

"At the end of the day he also understands that we're 12 of the best players in the world, and we know how to play golf. Sometimes less is more, so I think he's great at balancing that out."

US Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker says the bubbling feud between top 10 pair Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka will be a "non-issue" at this weekend's team play event at Whistling Straits.

DeChambeau and Koepka have a history of trading public blows, having never hidden their dislike for one another.

Koepka called out DeChambeau for slow play in 2019, while the 2020 U.S. Open champion poked fun at the four-time major winner's physique in January last year.

DeChambeau's coach Mike Schy said this week that the 28-year-old wants to end the dispute, with that sentiment reiterated by Stricker prior to the Ryder Cup which starts on Friday as the US seeks to reclaim the trophy from Europe.

"It’s a non-issue, really, for me and the team," Stricker said. "We got together a few weeks ago and I’ve had conversations with them both.

"They have assured me it’s not going to be an issue. I have no worries whatsoever."

The US Ryder Cup team features 2021 Open Championship winner Collin Morikawa, 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay along with DeChambeau and Koepka.

Stricker unsurprisingly admitted that the latter two would likely not be paired together for the team play event.

"Will we pair them together? I don’t think so at this point but things could change," Stricker said.

"Could always happen but probably not. Again, I had a dinner; they all showed up. We had great conversation, great talks.

"I’m not seeing it as an issue at all and they are completely on board."

Stricker also revealed that 15-time major winner Tiger Woods will not attend the Ryder Cup this weekend as he continues his rehabilitation from his February car accident.

Woods, 45, sustained multiple leg injuries in the single vehicle collision accident.

"I think it’s just not a good time for him to be here physically because of where he’s at in his rehabilitation," Stricker said.

"It’s a tough course to walk. Everybody is going to see it, from tee-to-green, it’s difficult."

Woods has taken up roles at the past four international competitions with the US, including playing captain at the 2019 Presidents Cup and is passionate about team play.

"He's been obviously in my ear a lot and I call him pretty regularly," Stricker said. "He's part of our Ryder Cup team. He's part of what we do."

Stricker added: "He’s getting better and his focus and mine is on making a comeback to play again. We don’t want to get in the way of that because we would all love to see him come back and play."

Tiger Woods is progressing and optimistic he will "play golf again" following a serious car accident in February, according to Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker.

Stricker announced his six picks for the United States team ahead of next month's Ryder Cup against Europe at Whistling Straights, though 15-time major champion Woods was a notable absentee on Wednesday.

Woods is recovering after suffering a comminuted open fracture in his right leg, which required emergency surgery, while also sustaining additional injuries to his foot and ankle as a result of the single-vehicle incident in California.

It remains to be seen when the 45-year-old will return to the course, but Stricker provided a positive update midweek.

"I've talked to Tiger a lot," American veteran Stricker told SiriusXM Radio.

"He's a part of this Ryder Cup family; he won't be able to be a captain's assistant this time around just because of his ongoing rehabilitation to try to get better and try to play golf again, and that is going well.

"He's progressing, he's doing well, things are moving in the right direction."

Stricker added: "He's very passionate about [the Ryder Cup]. He's a great guy to talk to. He's a great guy to lean on. We've had a number of talks.

"He continues to be a part of this, even though he won’t physically be here. He will be with us in spirit and help us if we need any help from afar."

Tiger Woods began his U.S. Open bid with a double bogey in 2008 at Torrey Pines – "a terrible start", said the man who four days later took the title in a sudden-death play-off, after he and Rocco Mediate could not be separated in a two-man fifth round.

The 18-hole play-off scenario is now history, so there will no repeat of such a marathon effort as the major returns after 13 years to the San Diego course this week, and there will be no Woods either.

That 2008 triumph was a 14th major for the American, yet he had to wait another 11 years until the 15th arrived, the man who once seemed booked in to take the major titles record away from Jack Nicklaus having seen perceptions of his life switch from fairy tale to soap opera.

Woods in 2008 was privately fighting the pain of a double stress fracture of his left tibia that he kept under wraps. Yes, he won the U.S. Open with a broken leg.

Whoever lifts the trophy this Sunday is unlikely to have to overcome the tribulations that faced Woods across that long weekend, and the superstar's absence is sure to be felt ... until the first round begins to take shape and a new narrative plays out.

Back in 2008, tournament organisers upped the intrigue by grouping Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott – the world number one, two and three – together for the opening two rounds.

Local favourite Mickelson recalls the moment when Woods fluffed his opening hole.

"I thought that was pretty inspiring the way he didn't let that affect him," Mickelson said this week. "He stayed to his game plan, stayed focused, stayed patient, and ended up kind of picking his spots where he could get a shot back here or there, and he did, and he ended up winning. That's impressive."

After completing his opening round, Woods said his mindset after shooting six at the first was to "just be patient, long way to go", and he finished one over par.

By the end of day two, Woods stood tied for second place, with Mickelson and Scott in a group sharing 35th position.

"The atmosphere for the whole 36 holes that I played with Phil and Tiger was incredible," Scott recalled earlier this year. "But Thursday morning the energy around the first hole was like I can't compare it to anything else actually.

"It was not even like teeing off at the Masters or anything like that. The build-up ... Tiger obviously being Tiger and Phil, the local hero, one, two and three in the world, of course I was like the third wheel hanging off the back, but it was really fun to be a part of that."

Of course Woods is a once-a-generation talent, but should anyone make a similarly poor start this week, it would be wise to take the blow on the chin and move on.

This course, the long-time home of the annual Farmers Insurance Open, should reward a steady temperament.

Mickelson, fresh from his shock victory last month at the US PGA Championship, where he became the oldest winner of a major, described the Torrey Pines greens on Monday as "very challenging".

"There's a lot of pitch, a lot of contour, and as they get firmer, they're significantly firmer than just the last two days," he said.

"It's very difficult to get it to some of the pin positions, and it's going to be a difficult test. As long as it is at sea level it's going to be a difficult task, but it seems like the set-up is pristine, and it's going to be a fun, very difficult challenge."

 

WHO WILL WIN THIS TIME?

With Woods out of the picture, recovering from the car crash he was said to have been fortunate to survive in February, there will be no repeat of his famous success 13 years ago.

Woods has won the Farmers Insurance Open a record seven times too, so he would have been relishing this week. Brandt Snedeker and Jason Day are both two-time winners of that tournament, and Mickelson has been champion three times, but not since 2001.

Mickelson is seeking the trophy that would give him a career grand slam, but it seems fanciful to expect him to challenge, having rarely been a factor in the majors in recent years until his unexpected win at Kiawah Island.

Stats Perform has taken a combination of factors to build a list of potential contenders, assessing past performance at the Farmers Insurance Open but also weighting displays in majors and recent PGA Tour form.

These scores are built around performance at Torrey Pines from 2016 to this year.

In the calculations, top-10 finishers at the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open receive points on a scale from 15 for the champion down to six points for 10th place. This decreases on a year-by-year sliding scale to 10 points for the 2016 tournament winner and one point for 10th place in that event.

There is also two points awarded per top-10 finish on the PGA Tour in the 2021 season, and substantial points availability for recent major success (10 points per major title in 2020 and 2021, 8pts in 2019, 6pts in 2018, 4pts in 2017, 2pts in 2016).

Not all players in the U.S. Open field have played the Farmers Insurance Open each year, and some are rarely active, if at all, on the PGA Tour, but this may give an inkling of the players who could come into contention at the year's third major.

TONY FINAU, 52 points: Finau followed up three top-10 results at the Farmers (2017, 2018, 2020) by finishing a joint runner-up in 2021, pointing to a clear liking for the course. How he enjoys it later in the year than he usually encounters Torrey Pines remains to be seen. Finau also has seven top-10 finishes of tour in the 2021 season.

JON RAHM, 52 points: His first major title is arguably overdue, given his talent and week-by-week results. Rahm was Farmers champion in 2017 and runner-up in 2020, also finishing top 10 in 2019 and 2021. He has a tour-leading 10 top-10 finishes this season, and would surely have had a win at the Memorial Tournament earlier this month before a positive COVID-19 test ended his title charge after 54 holes.

PATRICK REED, 42pts: This year's champion at the Farmers Insurance Open, Reed was also top six there in 2020, has had six top-10 results on tour this season and landed a Masters title in his not-too-distant past.

RYAN PALMER, 33pts: Palmer tied for second earlier this year at Torrey Pines, just as he did in 2018. Those performances and his four top-10 finishes on tour this year make him perhaps the surprise name on this list.

BROOKS KOEPKA, 32pts: Koepka missed the cut this year at the Farmers and did the same in 2017, and he did not play the tournament in the intervening years. Although Koepka has little left to prove in a wider sense – his mountain of points here is accrued through past major wins and a healthy batch of top-10s this season – he has yet to master Torrey Pines. Koepka has also missed the cut at three of his most recent four tournaments this year.

RORY MCILROY, 31pts: Top-five finishes at the Farmers in 2019 and 2020 augur well for McIlroy, and his five top-10 finishes on tour this season is a tally he will aim to add to over the coming days. It may be asking a lot to expect him to carry off the title, but another high placing would seem realistic.

Next on the list: Justin Rose (30pts), Brandt Snedeker (29), Viktor Hovland (26), Xander Schauffele (26), Jason Day (25), Marc Leishman (25), Hideki Matsuyama (25) and Keegan Bradley (24).

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