SAN DIEGO -- At no golf course in the world has Tiger Woods experienced more success than at picturesque Torrey Pines along the Pacific Ocean.
And this winter's warm weather in Southern California has made success even more likely for him this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, beginning Thursday.
"If they keep the golf course like this, it's going to be one hell of a test as the week progresses," Woods said Wednesday after surveying the firm and fast course in a pro-am. "It's going to get really difficult to post some good numbers."
Asked if he found those conditions favorable to his chances to win for a record ninth time at Torrey, Woods flashed his signature grin.
"I find it good," he said. "Past experiences."
Woods compared the conditions to an Open-like feel several times, and he would know, seeing as he won the last U.S. Open held here in 2008, in a sudden-death thriller over Rocco Mediate.
Remarkably, that was also his last major win, leaving him with 14, four short of Jack Nicklaus' longtime record. The 67-month slump has many suggesting Woods needs to be victorious in 2014 to have a realistic shot at tying or topping Nicklaus before entering the decline phase of his career.
But Woods, 38, said he doesn't look at it that way.
"I view it as every year's a big year," he said. "Every year that I get a chance to compete and play in tournaments and major championships for as long as I decide to do it, every year's a big year."
Asked then if he would look at his career as a disappointment if he were to retire without winning another major, Woods demurred, calling the question an unanswerable "hypothetical."
"All I know is that I'm still in, I feel, my peak years," he said. "I'm still playing well."
Woods won five events on tour in 2013 despite being shut out of the majors. He was honored Wednesday with last season's player of the year award, named after Nicklaus, by tour commissioner Tim Finchem.
It was his third time winning the award without winning a major.
Woods said the Nicklaus chase is overshadowing the four titles he needs to surpass Sam Snead's 82 overall PGA tour wins.
He could do that soon. After kick-starting his season with a Torrey victory last year, Woods won his fourth event of the year in May.
"Everyone wants to talk about the majors you've won," Woods said. "Just like, for instance, everyone wants to talk how many Slams that (Roger Federer) has won."
Woods mentioned retired tennis star Jimmy Connors, who owns the ATP tour all-time record with 110 tourney wins. Federer has 77, but is often credited as the top player in the history of the game because of his 17 Grand Slam titles.
Connors won eight slams, but Woods argued his overall victory totals warrant more fanfare.
"That's something that gets overlooked, consistency over a long period of time," Woods said.
Woods tees off in the first round at 10:40 a.m. with Jimmy Walker and reigning rookie of the year Jordan Spieth, 20.
MICKELSON'S SOUTH STRUGGLES
Phil Mickelson, 43, has never hid his near-hatred of Torrey's South Course, where the left-hander has consistently struggled despite his status as the beloved hometown hero.
He missed the cut here last year and hasn't won since 2001, the matter only getting worse after Rees Jones redesigned South for the U.S. Open in 2008.
"My feelings of animosity towards it might be a factor as to why I haven't played well, per se, on it," Mickelson said. "But I have come close a few times."
He'll be taking that into account shortly. Mickelson wants to incorporate both fun and challenging aspects into his course design company's renovation of the North Course, to begin next year.
"The last year, year and a half we've been taking a lot of input from the public and making sure that we're on the right track to make the golf course as playable for people to still enjoy playing and also challenging for the tour pro," he said.
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