Woods won't read into what happened Saturday

By Doug FergusonJanuary 29, 2014, 12:36 am

SAN DIEGO – Too bad Tiger Woods can't go back in time and expand that chart of Jack Nicklaus he taped to his bedroom wall as a teenager.

One point of clarification – it was never about 18 majors.

Woods once said the chart contained only four or five items constructed in a timeline, such as when Nicklaus started playing, how long before he first broke 40 for nine holes, when he won his first U.S. Amateur and when he turned pro.

''It was just a benchmark for me growing up,'' Woods said in Australia a few years ago. ''Here's the greatest player of all time and this is what he did when he was 13, 17, 18. As a junior, you're always trying to compare yourself to, 'When did he do it?' And hopefully, I can do something a little bit better and maybe that might springboard myself into having a good career.''

Here are two more items he could have added to the list:

- Woods didn't shoot in the 80s for the first time until his 130th stroke-play tournament as a pro. Nicklaus first shot 80 in his seventh tournament. In fact, Saturday at Torrey Pines was only the fifth round in Woods' career of 79 or worse. Nicklaus had four in his rookie season alone.

- Woods went 37 majors as a pro before he finally missed a cut, in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Nicklaus missed his first cut in his sixth major, the 1963 U.S. Open at Brookline, when he was the defending champion.

Woods was at Oakmont for a corporate day a few months before the 2007 U.S. Open when the conversation turned to his missed cut at Winged Foot. The surprise was not that he missed the cut, but that it took nearly 10 years to happen.

Woods shrugged.

''You figure you're going to have one bad week,'' he said.

That's why it's best – for now – to heed what he said Tuesday in Dubai. He was asked about any changes he made after a 79 at Torrey Pines caused him to miss the 54-hole cut last week in the Farmers Insurance Open.

The only thing he changed was his flight itinerary to Dubai.

''I know I'm not that far off,'' Woods said. ''I just happened to have one bad day, and that happens.''

It was surprising that it happened to him, especially at Torrey Pines, where he had won eight times. It was only his fourth round over par on the South Course for that tournament. Two of those rounds were in 2011, when he was just starting to rebuild his swing. And he was in reasonable position in the tournament until his meltdown began with a shot into the pond on the par-5 18th for a double bogey.

Woods was between 3-iron and 5-wood, tried to take a little off the 5-wood, paid the price and ''it snowballed from there.'' He had seven straight holes of bogey or worse.

''Unfortunately,'' he said Tuesday, ''the longer you play the sport, the more things like that happen.''

So maybe he's catching up on lost time.

Or maybe Father Time is catching up with him.

Johnny Miller, in a book he wrote in 2004 titled, ''I Call The Shots,'' was making arguments on both sides of Woods breaking Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. One reason against Woods breaking the record was that ''competitively, he's an old 28.''

Is he now an old 38?

Woods already has gone through four knee surgeries, including a reconstruct in 2008 after he won the U.S. Open (which happens to be the 14th and last major he won).

He was right to say Tuesday that ''I wouldn't read anything into what happened Saturday at Torrey Pines.''

It was just one tournament. One round.

Remember, last year Woods missed the cut in Abu Dhabi (with help from a two-shot penalty) and then annihilated the field at Torrey Pines the next week. He couldn't finish the final round at Doral in 2012 because of soreness in his Achilles' heel, and then won his next start at Bay Hill.

But let's go back to that last knee surgery.

Woods had never finished out of the top 10 in his first tournament of the year through 2008, including six wins on three courses (La Costa, Kapalua, Torrey Pines). In the six season-openers since then, he has no wins, two top 10s and three times didn't make it to Sunday.

How much work did Woods put into his game in the 45 days between his last round at Sherwood and his opening round at Torrey Pines? Woods is the only one who can say how he prepared, and after 18 years on tour, how much he felt like he needed (or wanted) to prepare.

Miller, however, wasn't referring to Woods' health when he wrote 10 years ago that he was an ''old 28.'' His hunch was that Woods' prime had arrived early, and that ''it won't be long before the hole shrinks back to its regulation 4 1/4-inch size.''

It sure seems like a long time since Woods stood over an important putt and there was no doubt it was going in.

Woods is playing the Dubai Desert Classic this week. In six previous trips, he has won twice and has finished out of the top 5 once – that was in 2011, again when he was in the early stages of his work with Sean Foley.

If the instruction from Woods is not to read anything into what happened at Torrey, it shouldn't matter – good or bad – what happens in Dubai.

Everyone has bad days.

It just seems like Woods has more of them than he once did.

Getty Images

Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

Getty Images

Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

Getty Images

McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

Getty Images

Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.