Tiger to put body to test with ambitious schedule

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Over the past few, injury-plagued years, Tiger Woods has repeatedly expressed a desire for more “reps,” for more competition to sharpen his floundering game. Problem was, his body never cooperated, breaking down each time he attempted to ramp up his tournament schedule.

Will this time be different? Our answer should come by the end of February.

Woods capped an ambitious early-season slate with the announcement Thursday that he will play the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic

For those keeping score at home, that’ll be four events in a five-week stretch, beginning Jan. 23 at one of his old playgrounds, Torrey Pines. The first doubleheader, San Diego-Dubai, requires a 12-hour time change and offers just three days of recovery (if he makes the first cut). He’ll have a week off after that, followed by back-to-back starts at Riviera and PGA National.

There’s reason to wonder whether this is too much too soon – last month’s Hero World Challenge marked his first competitive round in 466 days – but the busy stretch also suggests that both Woods’ body and mind are fit. If he can leave the Honda on Feb. 26 with no physical setbacks, it’s a promising sign for the rest of the year.

Then the focus can again return to the state of his game. At the Hero, he led the field in birdies, with 24. He also led in double bogeys, with six. His closing 76 was the highest score of the week, and he finished 15th out of 17 players.

These four events – three of which are at demanding venues, none more so than the South Course at Torrey Pines – will provide a better barometer than a late-season exhibition on a forgiving course in the Bahamas.

Tiger wanted more reps. Over the next two months, he’ll get plenty.