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SAN DIEGO -- For Tiger Woods, Tuesday at Torrey Pines was a morning full of reminders of decisions that he has made over his 17-year pro career: the decision to play the 2008 U.S. Open on two stress fractures in his left leg; the decision to lift the embedded ball last week in Abu Dhabi; the decision to move to Florida in 1996 for tax purposes. Add to that list his commitment to a standard putter even as his foes find easier ways to make putts and his focus on the full golf swing at the expense of his short game.
Every year that Woods comes back to the picturesque course overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it provokes memories of the excruciating pain that he endured here to win his national championship.
"No. 1 that comes to my mind every time I look at it or see highlights of it is just pure pain that I was in," said Woods, who will make his 2013 PGA Tour debut this week at the Farmers Insurance Open. "I don't ever want to experience that again. That was a very, very difficult week."
Tiger can't walk around Torrey Pines' South Course, a par-72, 7,621-yard Rees Jones redesign, without wondering if it's the site of his last major championship. The lavish compliments bestowed upon him about his eight victories here burnish his legend, but they do nothing to spare the ache of the longest majorless drought of his career.
In 2012, Tiger had three wins but he played inconsistently in the majors. For almost anyone else that would have been a career year. But not for Tiger.
"I would have to say the majority of the year I hit it pretty good, but my putting and short game weren't quite there," Tiger said. "I spent so much time on ballstriking that that finally came around.
"So toward the end of the season, I was able to spend more time with my chipping and putting and that's come around. So now I've got to marry up both of those two combos and hopefully I can do it this year and do it on a consistent basis."
Since Tiger's 2008 U.S. Open win, players using the midlength belly putters with the anchoring stroke have emerged to win major championships. On Tuesday, Tiger was asked if he had felt deprived of some wins because he stayed with a conventional method.
"No," he said. "I'm not going to look at it like that. Generally, in the past if guys switch methods, it's usually because they're uneasy, they're a little twitch or just don't feel comfortable, so they'll switch methods."
All this tinkering and practicing with his golf swing and short game has amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars for his bank account. On Tuesday, he was reminded of how rich he was when he was asked his thoughts about recent comments made by Phil Mickelson, who at the Humana Challenge complained that new tax hikes had made him consider "drastic" changes.
"Well, I moved out of [California] back in '96 for that reason," Tiger said. "I enjoy Florida, but also I understand what he was, I think, trying to say."
At the Farmers Insurance Open, Tiger has paid the taxes on the winner's check six times. He last won the event in 2008 when he also took the U.S. Open. He's not the same player or man since those victories.
But the memories never fade.