Bill Dwyre

Tiger Woods still has gas in the tank

Is he back? After his victory at Torrey Pines, Woods says he never left and is shooting for eight or nine wins this year.

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Tiger Woods Wins Farmer Insurance Open

LA JOLLA — Many will see Tiger Woods' victory Monday as a day of belaboring the obvious. He had a six-shot lead to start the day, only 11 holes left and a golf course that would give up birdies to his challengers as easily as Manti Te'o finds girlfriends.

Others will see it as a resurrection.

Is Woods really back?

Ever since Michael Jordan made it fashionable to be back, that question has been posed for every major athlete who seemed to lose his or her way. Woods hasn't won a major since the U.S. Open in 2008. Because he had won 13 prior to that and is 37 now, it seems to be a fair question at each appropriate juncture.

A coasting, four-shot victory in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, a golf course that would make being locked in a small room with 10 people talking loudly on their cellphones preferable to playing there, seemed an appropriate juncture.

And so the question was put to Woods in his post-victory news conference.

Are you back?

His response was not only vintage Woods, but both in content and tone, the definitive answer.

"Never left," he said.

That was followed by the huge smile that, with his emphatic fist pump over putts that go in, has become a trademark. Woods has a smile that lights up a room, as well as a snarl that can empty it.

The news in this one was not that Woods won, but what it meant.

If you looked closely and listened carefully, there were plenty of signs that addressed that.

Friday's round was played in drenching rain. It never let up long enough for anybody, spectator or player, to find relief from being wet and miserable. Players went from sweaters to short-sleeve windbreakers to the kind of Gore-Tex rain suits usually needed only during the monsoon major they play every year, also known as the British Open.

Woods? He played all the way in a sweater and brushed away that sort of Arctic hardiness with a sniff.

"Once you are wet, you are wet," he said. "Deal with it."

Reading into that the implication that the other guys are wimps may or may not be a stretch.

Woods was asked what kind of goal he set for Monday, in this odd finish necessitated by a total fog-out Saturday.

"I felt if I post a 20 [under par]," he said, "they weren't going to win the golf tournament."

He said the swirling wind that came up negated that goal of undercutting par by three more in his 11 holes Monday. Most players in that position would have talked about shooting for the middle of greens, loving pars and protecting the lead.

More questions about goals, always kind of a murky pursuit in sports, came forth. The strategically correct response to those is usually some form of milquetoast babble or cop-out, especially if you never want to rile up your opponents for the days ahead. In the world of sports cliches, that's called bulletin board material.

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