Tiger Woods eager for season to start

1/27/2011 - Golf Tiger Woods

SAN DIEGO -- For the first time in several years, Tiger Woods says, he's beginning a golf season healthy, both physically and mentally.

Woods is eager for 2011 to commence with the Farmers Insurance Open after a tumultuous 2010 that saw him go winless for the first time in his professional career. He's back at Torrey Pines as a competitor for the first time since his dramatic U.S. Open victory in a playoff over Rocco Mediate in 2008.

Although the questions still remain about his game, it has been at least four years since Woods felt this healthy to start the season, he said.

"I think it's nice to have an offseason where I wasn't in pain and recovering from something," Woods said Wednesday before his pro-am round. "I've had so many darn surgeries and everything.

"I haven't had an offseason like this. It's always been trying to somehow ... get myself to start up again," Woods said. "This was nice, to actually practice and build. It was something I haven't been able to do. That's been fun. Hopefully I can continue this."

A year ago at this time, Woods was in rehab and dealing with the fallout of his acknowledged extramarital affairs, which eventually led to a divorce. He did not return until the Masters, posted just two top-10s and decided to make changes to his swing with instructor Sean Foley.

Now he is back at Torrey Pines, where his record includes seven professional victories overall, including wins at the Farmers tournament from 2005 to 2008 and the 2008 U.S. Open he captured despite playing on a broken leg.

"In order to play this game at a high level, it helps to have a clear mind," he said. "It helps to be consistent. It helps having your life in balance. Certainly my life is much more balanced than it was in the past. That is exciting for me."

There is certainly reason for optimism for Woods, who enters the season ranked No. 3 in the world behind Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.

Three years ago, Woods began the season with a blown-out left knee. Two years ago, he was still recovering from surgery on that knee. One year ago, his life was in shambles.

This year, he's had seven weeks to prepare since the Chevron World Challenge, where he finished second to Graeme McDowell in a playoff.

"Tiger healthy as his season begins" he said. "Trying to build on what I did last year and the end of last year. I think that's where I'm at. Sean and I have been talking about that quite a bit. We're excited about where my game has progressed over the offseason. Just get out there and play."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com.