Not even Woods knows his progress
Tiger Woods never looked worse at Torrey Pines.
One of the more astute assessments about the state of Woods’ golf game came last year at the Australian Masters. He was paired in the third round with Kieran Pratt, a 22-year-old from Melbourne. A longtime observer noted that one player had won 14 majors among 82 titles around the world, the other was making his pro debut, and you couldn’t tell the difference. Pratt shot a 70. Woods had a 71.
A new year looked a lot like the old one for Woods.
To see him open with a pair of 69s at the Farmers Insurance Open made it appear as though his game was on an upward trend, until recognizing that Anthony Kim was better in each of the two rounds.
Woods was outplayed in the next two rounds by two rookies: Jhonattan Vegas, an emerging star on the PGA Tour who showed no effects of a hangover from winning the previous week at the Bob Hope Classic; and Brendan Steele, who grew up in a tiny California town (Hemet) that didn’t even have a golf course.
Even more surprising is that it took place at Torrey Pines.
No one has had more success on San Diego’s public gem than Woods. He won the Buick Invitational six times, and won the U.S. Open in 2008 on a shattered right leg – and in his first tournament in two months. But his record runs far deeper. He had never finished out of the top 10, and he had never finished more than four shots behind the winner.
This isn’t the first time Woods has revamped his swing, either.
The first big overhaul was in 1998, and Woods still finished only one shot out of a playoff that year at Torrey Pines. The other reconstruction project was in 2004, and he wound up two shots out of a playoff.
This time, he was a whopping 15 shots out of the lead in a tie for 44th.
Woods failed to break par only one time on the South Course at Torrey Pines in his first 32 rounds in Tour events. He shot 74 on Saturday to fall out of the hunt, and 75 on Sunday to fall into irrelevancy.
At least he didn’t finish near the bottom of the pack as he did last summer at Firestone, another course where he has dominated.
Woods was flustered when he finished.
“Absolutely, absolutely,” he said when asked if he was surprised by his scores. “I started out hitting it pretty good out here this week. I really did. And it progressively got worse. We have some things that we need to work on. Sean (Foley) and I have been talking about it every night. I can do it on the range, but it’s a little different when I’ve got to bring it out here.”
Woods said he’s in “the process” of his swing change, whatever that means. When he was changing his swing under Hank Haney, his choice of words was, “I’m close.”
But even he’s not sure how close he is.
So much more was expected. Woods was coming off a solid tournament two months ago at his Chevron World Challenge, where he played great for 54 holes, looked shaky the last 18 and lost in a playoff to U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.
And then there’s the Torrey factor.
Woods will always be compared with his past, and that’s not about to go away.
At his low point last year – a missed cut at Quail Hollow, a withdrawal from The Players Championship with a neck injury that no one knew anything about – Paul Goydos cautioned not to judge Woods until he played courses where he traditionally won, and won big. Still to come was the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and the British Open at St. Andrews.
Woods wasn’t a serious contender at either, and by then his game was in full meltdown mode.
So while it’s too early to measure Woods after one tournament, it’s natural to raise questions after such a pedestrian performance at Torrey Pines. Next week is the Dubai Desert Classic, where Woods has never finished lower than fifth. The last time he played, he won by one shot over a young German named Martin Kaymer, who now is No. 2 in the world and could go to No. 1 at the Qatar Masters this week.
Then after the Match Play Championship – too fickle to measure anyone’s game – is the World Golf Championship at Doral, where Woods has won three times and has never finished out of the top 10.
Each result that’s not up to previous standards will make him appear to be even further away from where he once was.
Woods says he is working harder than ever on the range, and Foley said he spent about four hours a week with him at Isleworth during the holidays, although it sure didn’t translate to the golf course.
It’s the same process – take the swing from the range to inside the ropes. Perhaps he would do well to add a tournament to give himself more repetitions when it matters, although there is no indication that Woods will play Riviera or even the Honda Classic.
The goal is to have his game ready for the Masters. That’s still two months away.
Given the way he started his year, it must feel as though it’s right around the corner.
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.