In each of the 522 days since Tiger Woods last struck a golf ball in a full-field PGA Tour event, I have been asked what I think about his future. OK, maybe not all 522 days, but probably more than you would think. So this is a topic I have thought a lot about and ruminated on more than I should have.

To say his return at the Hero World Challenge in December was a pleasant surprise is to say Tom Brady has had a moderately successful professional career. Woods' performance was a borderline revelation. I'm not talking about his score or how many birdies or double bogeys he made or any of that nonsense. I'm talking about the fact that Woods' swing looked like it had been baptized into a renewed portion of his career and that he could still matter in the golf world.

Even he didn't know if that would always be the case.

"I've gone through some pretty tough lows with the procedures on my back," Woods said on Monday at a media day at the Genesis Open. "There was a time when I didn't know if I'd ever swing a golf club again, play with my kids, do some activities. There were some pretty tough times but I worked through it. It's a good day now that I can compete again."

But how competitive will Woods be? More specifically, how competitive will he be at Torrey Pines this weekend for the Farmers Insurance Open -- where he has finished in the top 10 an incredible 13 times in 16 appearances, including a U.S. Open win in 2008?

Jason Day, who will play with Woods in the first two rounds, said Tuesday that he would love to play with Woods late on Sunday for the tournament trophy. We would all love that, too. But can that be a reality for Woods? I suppose it could, but I suspect it will not be.

The 2017 Farmers Insurance Open will most likely play out a lot like the 2016 Hero World Challenge for Woods. This is a bigger stage, but his game has improved since then. Tiger will surge early with a 71-68 start or something similar. He will play his way into one of the final eight pairings on the weekend but fade a little bit down the stretch. He will finish T21 or T29, and it will have been an encouraging week for all involved.

Woods has played well at times in returns from previous injuries, but he has never had a layoff like this one. Still, if the Hero World Challenge was the preview to his 2017 feature film, I have every reason to believe the main event will at the very least be a viscerally stimulating experience.

Woods' last dance with the sport he has helped usher into the modern era has a chance to be his most intriguing of all. The uninhibited young superstar is awe-striking, but the aged cat who continues to land on his feet and refuses to submit before the thrones occupied by a fleet of young studs whose games have usurped their admirable predecessor is awe-inspiring.

Woods will likely show us a bit of both this weekend at Torrey Pines as he embarks on a four-tournament-in-five-week journey that will likely tell us more than we can imagine about how the next decade is going to go. There is rust to be knocked off, and there will be swings to be tightened up. Woods will have some three-putts and mishit some long irons.

But Woods will also thrill in stretches this weekend at Torrey Pines. His gluteal muscles will fire unlike two years ago, and he will toy with time for minute increments as he reminds us that this is a process (because of course he will) and his runway to land one of the great careers in sports history is longer than one weekend.