Tiger Woods recalls last major victory at Torrey Pines

Tiger Woods reacts after sinking a birdie putt Tiger Woods reacts after sinking a birdie putt on the 18th green to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate during the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. (June 15, 2008) Photo Credit: AP

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Tiger Woods has had nearly five years to dwell on it. He has had all that time to think about the last time he won a major, at Torrey Pines in San Diego, where he is playing this week. So it was natural that he was asked what sights go through his mind when he gets to this site.

"I do look at that week often," he said Tuesday during his pre-tournament news conference at the Farmers Insurance Open. "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."

So it is not the mental anguish that he brought on himself with the personal scandal that changed his reputation and his career trajectory since his 14th major championship. It is the fact of how hard it was to win the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg.

Woods dramatically made a putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate, then won that the following day in extra holes. Hank Haney, his swing coach at the time, has since wrote that a doctor advised Woods not to play because his leg was so badly injured.

"I don't know how I got through five days," Woods said. "It was a very difficult week."

He is beginning his 2013 PGA Tour season in a much different way. "It's great to be healthy," he said. But he repeatedly said that last year. Although he won three tournaments, he won no majors, and that qualifies as a disappointment for him. He said that his short game suffered in 2012 because he had spent so much time on his new full swing, developed with new swing coach Sean Foley. By the end of the year, he said, he was able to work on his chipping and putting and has been pleased with his progress.

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Woods is coming off an embarrassing episode at Abu Dhabi last week when he missed the cut after having been assessed a two-stroke penalty. Instead of waiting for a ruling from a European Tour tournament official, he assumed he was entitled to relief from an embedded lie. It turned out, he took an illegal drop. He said Tuesday that he never had been penalized like that before.

Torrey Pines is full of no such gaffes. Including the Open, he has won at the public course seven times. He believes it will host an Open again, calling it the "West Coast version" of Bethpage Black.

Having grown up in Southern California, he used to attend the Torrey Pines tournament -- formerly hosted by Andy Williams -- as a spectator. One of his most vivid memories was having watched Tom Watson, the tour legend recently named the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, hit two stray shots. Woods said that Watson's caddie, Bruce Edwards, yelled at him twice to get out of the way so Watson would have room to line up his shots.

Once he got on tour, Woods added of the late caddie, "I used to give Bruce grief about it all the time."

The greatest golfer of the current generation wasn't joking or sharing much with caddies, players or anyone during the 2008 Open. No one knew what his condition was. "You never want to let guys know you're hurt," Woods said. "In any sport. Ever."

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