Four months after his epic U.S. Open victory, Tiger Woods returned to Torrey Pines on Monday without a limp. He didn't have golf clubs, either. Hopping from a cart, Woods walked up to 59-year-old John Abel, doffed his cap and extended his right hand. "Hey, I hear you're looking for a caddie. I'm Tiger Woods -- pleased to meet you."
Out of action since beating Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff for his 14th career major, Woods came back to Torrey Pines to deliver on his end of the "Tee Off with Tiger" online sweepstakes sponsored by Buick. Showing no signs of his season-ending knee surgery a week after the U.S. Open, Woods wore a green caddie's bib inscribed with Abel's name as he guided him around the back nine of the South Course, where he has won six times in the Buick Invitational and once in a U.S. Open he called his best ever. Playing with torn ligaments in his left knee and a double stress fracture in his leg, Woods made a 12-foot birdie on the final hole to force an 18-hole playoff, made a 4-foot birdie on the 18th in the playoff to stay alive and finally won with a par.
Woods was in character from the minute he drove up to the 10th tee, on cue from a video crew that recorded every one of Abel's shots. Reporters and photographers from two media outlets -- The Associated Press and the San Diego Union-Tribune -- were allowed to watch on the 10th and 18th holes.
Woods drove the cart. He handed clubs to Abel, then wiped them off with a towel and put them back in the bag. He squatted to line up putts and tended the pin. He warned how fast the greens were, then chuckled as Abel five-putted the 10th for a quadruple-bogey 8. "It was fun," said Woods, who once caddied for former Stanford teammate Jerry Chang. "This was totally cool. I've caddied before many times. For me to be out here and to be able to do it again, it's always fun. John's a good guy. It was a fun day for me."
Tiger, who won't return to the PGA Tour until next year, will make another appearance in Southern California in December when he will host the Chevron World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks. Tiger is the defending champion of the tournament, which benefits his foundation. A select field of 16 of the world's best golfers will compete for the $1.35 million first prize. Nice work if you can hit a little white ball long and straight.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report