A new year for Woods with lingering questions
And the last one wasn’t very good.
Some of his peers couldn’t help but chuckle when the pro-am tee times for the Farmers Insurance Open were posted in the locker room. For more than a decade, Woods had the first available tee time, a perk for being the best player on the PGA Tour, or not far from it. Those pro-am times are determined by the previous year’s money list.
Woods was No. 68 on the money list.
He tees off at 11 a.m., which is about the time he used to finish.
“I can’t imagine he’ll be too thrilled with that,” Pat Perez said.
And then there’s the world ranking.
Woods lost his No. 1 spot nearly three months ago to Lee Westwood, so that’s old news. He dropped yet another spot to No. 3 this week when Martin Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi Championship by eight shots. And if Woods doesn’t return to his former self quickly, it won’t be long before he slips even farther. The last time he was not in the top three was May 11, 1997.
What’s more noteworthy about the world ranking, however, is it’s the first time Woods has been ranked behind someone younger than him. He turned 35 over the holidays.
Woods has known this day was coming, even when his game appeared untouchable. In time, there would be a player – or players, in this case – younger than him and not as intimidated.
Sure, there was a brief challenge from Sergio Garcia. Adam Scott reached as high as No. 3, and Paul Casey did the same a year later.
Now, the youth brigade is coming in bunches.
Ahead of him in the ranking is Kaymer, the 26-year-old German who won the PGA Championship last year to become the youngest major champion since Woods. Kaymer also won the European Tour money title, and started the year with an eight-shot victory over what will be one of the strongest fields the European Tour will see all year.
“He’s probably the most formidable player in the world when he is leading,” Padraig Harrington said.
That’s what they used to say about Woods. But in his most recent tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, Woods blew a four-shot lead in the final round to U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. It was the first time Woods had lost a lead that large.
“He used to appear invincible,” McDowell said that day. “Of course, he’s made himself appear more human in the last 12 months. But there’s something a bit special about his golf game, and I fully expect that mystique to return.”
McDowell is 31, and right behind Woods in the world ranking at No. 4.
Woods also has to contend with younger players like Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey and perhaps even Luke Donald from Europe, not to mention Dustin Johnson and Anthony Kim from the American side.
So many talented, young players will not make Woods’ task any easier. The bigger question is whether Woods is equipped for the fight.
Some of the answers might arrive this week at Torrey Pines, a public course along the Pacific bluffs that Woods has owned like no other. His epic U.S. Open title in 2008 was the seventh time he had won as pro on Torrey Pines. He has not lost on this golf course since 2004, although he missed the last two years. He has never finished out of the top 10.
But just like last year, no one is quite sure what to expect.
His new swing coach, Sean Foley, said he spent about four hours a week with Woods on the practice range at Isleworth the last few months, and he liked what he saw. He said Woods no longer has to think as much about what he’s doing. The swing repeats more easily. What he feels matches up with the mechanics.
How will that translate with a scorecard in hand?
“If you want to anticipate what happens in the future, look to the past,” Foley suggested. “What people lose touch of, because we’re such a bandwagon society, is that for a decade there, it might have been one of the greatest 10-year runs in the history of athletics. Obviously, he struggled last year. But I look forward to watching him compete.”
When Kaymer won in Abu Dhabi, it was his ninth win in his 100th start on the European Tour. That still doesn’t compare with Woods, who won 28 times – including six majors – in his first 100 starts on the much stronger PGA Tour.
History is easily forgotten, although in this case, it’s understandable.
Woods has overcome swing changes in 1998 and 2004. He has overcome knee surgeries, one at the end of 2002, two during 2008. Even so, he has never been humbled like he was last year, when his private failures became so public, and so embarrassing.
His performance was such that no one fears him.
Ian Poulter had some fun with Woods on Twitter early Tuesday, after seeing that Woods had offered to answer questions from his tweets before leaving Florida for San Diego.
Poulter kept egging on Woods to get involved with Twitter.
“(C)ome on tiger when are you going to join the lads for some banter,” said one Poulter tweet. That was followed by Poulter’s message to Westwood that “im not having it that No3 is writing his own tweets. He doesn’t want to play.”
Westwood submitted this question to Woods: “is it true you’ve dyed your hair Ginger,signed a deal with IJP clothing and bought a White Ferrari cos your in awe of poults?”
Woods didn’t take the bait. There were no replies.
Really, the only thing No. 3 can do now is try to play like he did when he was No. 1.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.