On a course he loves that was also the site of his last major victory, which was also arguably one of the most dramatic and gutsy wins in the history of the sport, Tiger Woods enters this weekend with an outright 36-hole lead at a regular golf tournament on U.S. soil for the first time since the infamous scandal that turned his world--and golf game--upside down.
Playing at Torrey Pines near La Jolla, California at the Farmers Insurance Open, Woods shot a 7-under 65 on Friday on the North Course to take a 2-shot lead over Billy Horschel. Woods is at -11 for the tournament.
Woods led at an Australian golf event in 2011 after 36 holes. He has also been tied for the lead after 36 holes since the scandal at tournaments such as the 2012 Bay Hill Invitational. But this is the first time he has had the outright lead on U.S. soil since the late-night incident around Thanksgiving of 2009 when he crashed into a fire hydrant after his wife Elin intercepted a text message from one of Woods' many mistresses.
Woods has not won a major since. He has struggled with his driving, short game, and putting, and all at different times. He has had trouble reading greens, especially the speeds of greens--and this has cost him numerous opportunities to win tournaments and majors. He has since changed caddies and swing coaches.
And this week--at a familiar place--he seems to be finally putting it together. Woods said he felt comfortable with his game and swing, which he reconstructed, after many good practice sessions.
"I feel good," Woods said. "I'm leading the tournament."
In 2008, Woods won his 14th--and last--major at Torrey Pines on a broken leg at the 2008 U.S. Open. He drained a birdie putt on the 18th hole on Sunday to force an 18-hole playoff on the following Monday against Rocco Mediate. Woods would later win.
"I do look at that week often," Woods said this week. "The No. 1 thing that comes to my mind every time I see the highlights of it is just the pure pain I was in. I never want to experience that again."
Woods said he still does not know how he got through those five days in 2008 and noted how great it felt to finally be healthy. Woods has had knee operations and many ailments--physical and emotional--since the 2008 victory at Torrey Pines. But he enters 2013 in the best health he has been since then.
"It's great to be healthy," Woods said.