As Tiger Woods prepares for his season debut at Torrey Pines - a course on which he's won eight times - GolfChannel.com writers debate which course they most associate with Woods. For more on the events Woods has dominated over the years, click here.
By JASON SOBEL
When we think Tiger Woods, we think major championships - and since three of the four rotate on an annual basis, that leaves one logical course for us to most greatly associate him.
Even though Woods has won more tournaments at Torrey Pines … and Bay Hill … and Firestone … his greatest successes and biggest failures have come on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National.
From that 12-stroke win as a precocious 21-year-old which ignited Tigermania to the 2001 victory that gave him the so-called Tiger Slam to the thunderous chip at 16 four years later that hung on the lip before dropping into the cup, Woods’ most memorable moments happened on the world’s most revered golf course. Even in defeat, he’s made major headlines there; we need only look back to last year for evidence, when his flagstick-to-water shot led to a bad drop which in turn led to a penalty and in turn led to one of the most controversial rulings in recent memory.
It’s not as if we’d think of venues such as Torrey or Bay Hill or Firestone and think of anyone besides Woods – he’s won a combined two dozen titles on those three courses, more than many Hall of Famers have won in their entire careers – but if there’s one course with which we most associate with him, it can’t be anything else other than Augusta National.
By RANDALL MELL
Tiger Woods marveled just like the rest of us back then.
Not over his 15-shot victory at Pebble Beach in the 2000 U.S. Open, or his 12-shot triumph at the ’97 Masters, but with trophy in hand after limping home to win the ’08 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on a left leg ravaged by a torn ligament and fractured tibia.
Woods looked at the trophy that day in a way we’ve never seen him look at a trophy before. He looked at it as if he couldn’t believe he won it. He has amazed us with his performances so many times over the years, but, for the first time that day, he looked like he amazed himself.
“All things considered, I don’t know how I ended up in this position,” Woods said back then. “It’s probably the greatest tournament I ever had.”
Tiger Woods has won eight times as a professional at Torrey Pines, seven times in the PGA Tour’s annual event there, and once in that U.S. Open. Yes, he has dominated at Firestone, Bay Hill and Augusta National, but his signature victory, the one even he couldn’t believe he won, came on his signature course, Torrey Pines.
By WILL GRAY
He may have won more at other venues, but the course I most associate with Tiger Woods remains Augusta National.
It was at Augusta that Woods burst onto the scene with his runaway victory in 1997, demonstrating a combination of command and power the likes of which few have replicated before or since. No other venue took such overt lengths to “Tiger-proof” itself following that breakthrough win, though Woods now has a total of four green jackets despite those efforts.
Augusta is where he has had many of his most memorable moments, for better or worse – the fist pump on the 18th green in 1997, the chip-in at No. 16 eight years later and the drop from the 15th fairway just nine months ago. It’s also where he arguably reached the zenith of the game, winning in 2001 to hold all four of golf’s major trophies at the same time.
Augusta was where Tiger first asserted himself on golf’s biggest stage, and the link between player and venue remains strong to this day.
By REX HOGGARD
Augusta National, with its history and hierarchy atop the game’s most important tilts, will always be central to the narrative that is Tiger Woods’ career, but considered in recent context Torrey Pines is the course most easily associated with the world No. 1.
It was at the Southern Cal municipal gem where Woods last hoisted major glory, an ageless victory on one leg against a dogged opponent.
On a broken leg and a knee bound for a medical overhaul it was quintessential Woods during Round 3 at the 2008 U.S. Open complete with eagle putts at the par-5 13th and 18th holes to move into the lead.
He would finish 72 holes tied with affable everyman Rocco Mediate and through pain that wasn’t fully acknowledged until well after the fact he grinded out an 18-hole playoff lap for his 14th major championship.
Add to that historical masterpiece seven other professional victories at Torrey Pines, including last year’s four-shot rout at the Farmers Insurance Open, and the city fathers in San Diego could be forgiven if they renamed the seaside layout Tiger Pines.
San Diego may be Phil Mickelson’s home, but Torrey Pines will always be synonymous with Woods, at least until he wins Grand Slam No. 15.