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Woods hopes high ahead of Pebble Beach golf

PEBBLE BEACH, California, USA, February 8 – Tiger Woods returns to the site of two of his most stirring victories when he makes his PGA Tour season debut at the $6.4 million Pebble Beach Pro-Am which begins Thursday.

“I am excited to be back,” Woods said. “Everything is kind of headed in the right direction.”

Woods, who is playing in this event for the first time in a decade, had a magical season at Pebble Beach in 2000.

He won the 2000 US Open by a monstrous 15 strokes and earlier that year, Woods rallied from a seven-shot deficit in the final round to capture the Pebble Beach tournament. It marked his only Pebble Beach Pro-Am win in a half dozen years from 1997-2002.

“Things were kind of going my way,” Woods said of the comeback in 2000. “I figured I had to shoot 66 or lower to give myself a chance. All of a sudden, boom, three shots, two holes and I am back in the ballgame.”

Those triumphs seem like a distant memory now for the 14-time major winner Woods who is looking for his first official PGA Tour win in over two years.

The former world number one has seen his ranking and personal life take a tailspin since a 2009 car crash and subsequent sex scandal that also led to the breakup of his marriage.

Lately, however, things have been looking up.

In his only other appearance this season, Woods finished third two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi. This week Woods will be partnered with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

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Woods, who is ranked 18th in the world, is one of just four of the top 20 players in the Pebble Beach field. The others comprise Dustin Johnson (No. 10), Nick Watney (No. 13) and Phil Mickelson (No. 17).

American D.A. Points could also make some noise this week. Points will be hoping for a repeat performance starting Thursday when he tees off with playing partner actor Bill Murray of “Caddyshack” fame.

Points is off to a fast start this season with a pair of top 10 finishes.

“It is a nice feeling to be the defending champ,” Points said Wednesday. “Hopefully this week I can try to make it feel as much like a normal Tour event as possible.”

His hole-out from the fairway on the par-five 14th in the fourth round last year was considered one of the greatest shots of the 2011 season.

Since winning here last year, Points’ game has headed south. But the 35-year-old American feels he has a better handle now on what went wrong.

“After I won I just really wanted to climb the ladder,” Points said. “I had all these great expectations.

“I just wanted to excel in those events to really boost my world rankings and give myself all these opportunities that I’ve always wanted to have.

“I was pushing so hard that I just never let myself enjoy it or play well.

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“What I need to do is to have myself as prepared as possible and then go play. Whatever happens, happens. Don’t try to force it.”

The Pro-Am features three golf courses — Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill Golf Club and Monterey Peninsula Country Club — which everyone plays at least once.

There is a 54-hole cut which advances the low 60 players and ties to the final round at the Pebble Beach course.

Fiji’s Vijay Singh and Trevor Immelman of South Africa could also contend this week.

Former champion Singh has posted seven top ten finishes in 17 appearances at Pebble Beach. He won in 2004 and lost in a playoff four years ago.

Immelman tied for 12th in his latest outing at the Phoenix Open and has shot nine consecutive rounds of under par.

Singh is partnered with Adobe Systems chief executive Shantanu Narayen while Immelman is paired with comic George Lopez.

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