Tiger Woods chooses Phoenix in plan to rise again

Woods to make his season debut at Phoenix Open

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Tiger Woods will make his season debut at this month’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, a tournament he has not played in 14 years, the former world No 1 said on Friday.

Woods, who was limited to nine tournaments last year due to back issues, also said he would play the following week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California.

The Phoenix Open, famous for its massive galleries and an amphitheatre par-three 16th that is the centre of the event’s party atmosphere, will mark Woods’s first event since finishing tied for last at the  18-player Hero World Challenge last month.

“It will be great to return to Phoenix,” Woods said. “The crowds are amazing and always enthusiastic, and the 16th hole is pretty unique in golf.

“Torrey is a very important place to me. My pop took me there when I was younger, and I have a lot of special memories of watching the tour play there when I was growing up.”

In three previous starts at Phoenix, Woods cracked the top five twice, finishing third in 1999 and tied for fifth in 2001. In 1997, he electrified the huge crowds surrounding the par-three 16th hole by making a hole-in-one.

Woods is very familiar with Torrey Pines, where he grew up playing junior golf, and he has won the tournament seven times, most recently in 2013.

The last of his 14 majors came in the 2008 US Open on the South Course at Torrey Pines, where he beat Rocco Mediate in a play-off.

“Starting my year off at Phoenix & Torrey back-to-back weeks. I’m ready to go. Should be a lot of fun,” Woods said on Twitter.

At the halfway stage of the South African Open in Johannesburg, England’s Andy Sullivan has one local major champion hot on his heels, but surprisingly another dropped well off the pace.

Sullivan added a 70 to his opening 66 at Glendower Golf Club to reach eight under par, one shot ahead of former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and eight clear of four-time major winner Ernie Els.

Tournament host Els, who has won the event five times, was just one shot behind Sullivan after an opening 67 but slumped to a second round of 77 which featured back-to-back triple-bogeys around the turn.

Schwartzel, who has yet to win his national open, finished birdie, eagle, birdie to record a 69, while Sullivan – who won a trip into space for a hole-in-one during the KLM Open last year – carded four birdies and two bogeys in pursuit of his first European Tour title.

The 27-year-old from Nuneaton, who recorded four top-five results on his way to finishing 33rd on the Race to Dubai last season, said: “I thought it was going to be a really good knock on the front nine, but a few little errant drives meant the rough got its payback on me today.

“But anything in red figures [under par] is good so I am really happy with the position I am in. I thought I did well on eight to make birdie after a couple of smelly holes in the middle.”

As for his prospects of a first win, Sullivan added: “When I get in these positions I find myself enjoying it more. It’s where you want to be, you practise to be in these situations and I am playing with the guys I always wanted to as a kid. It’s fantastic.

“It’s new territory to be up there after two rounds but, hopefully, I can take what I usually do in rounds three and four and blow the field away.”

Schwartzel was considering pulling out of the event after fracturing a toe by walking into a piece of furniture, but he recovered from bogeys on his first two holes and insisted he was relishing the tough challenge posed by Glendower’s thick rough and narrow fairways.

“Any national open should be the most difficult tournament and this week really is a good challenge,” the 2011 Masters champion said. “The only reason I have not pulled out is that I can actually hit the ball without pain. For some reason I can turn onto the foot but the walking is a challenge.”