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San Diego Debut


The PGA Tour schedule may have officially teed off in Hawaii several weeks ago. But it doesn’t take a farmer to know that televised golf without Tiger Woods isn’t exactly a cash crop.

So, this week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines has become the de facto start of the 2011 season. Tiger returns to the site of his epic 91-hole U.S. Open playoff victory over Rocco Mediate, who “coincidentally” will be paired with Woods — along with Anthony Kim — on Thursday and Friday.

“Playing with Rocco won’t be like playing with Ben Hogan,” Tiger joked, during his Wednesday press conference. “There might be a few words said. …

“Rocco and I obviously have a little history here. But I’ve known him since my rookie year and he’s been great to me. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

There have been 10 major championships played since Tiger limped to that one-legged U.S. Open win in 2008, tying the longest major-less drought of Woods’ career. This week will also mark the first time Woods has played the San Diego-area course in two years — missing the 2009 stop while rehabbing his surgically repaired knee and opting to skip last year’s event (and instead make his season debut at The Masters) following his infamous wrecked car and marriage.

After spending 281 straight weeks as the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer — and 623 total weeks during a stellar career that also includes 14 major titles — Woods lost his grip on the top spot to England’s Lee Westwood on Halloween last year. Ranked No. 3 worldwide, behind Westwood and Germany’s reigning PGA Champion Martin Kaymer, Woods has plenty to prove at Torrey Pines this week.

The good news is that Tiger has tamed Torrey Pines during his career — winning eight career titles, including five straight, while carding just one round over par. In his last 12 events at Torrey, Tiger has seven wins and no finish worse than 10th.

“I’m very excited about returning,” said the 35-year-old Woods. “My swing is getting better and I feel much more at ease. But I haven’t done it under the gun yet, so we’ll see what happens.”

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