SAN DIEGO – There was a fairly large upset Friday at Torrey Pines.
Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open and wasn’t all that miffed about it.
In fact, this may have been the best he has ever felt about missing a cut. It wasn’t just the words he used after. We’ve heard him sound as if he’s in denial after failure, dismissing issues plaguing his game, but there was something about his body language Friday as he made his way around Torrey Pines’ North Course. Yes, he wasn’t happy with all his shots, but you could sense his hopefulness in what we didn’t see from him.
We didn’t see a lot of thumped clubs or muttering under his breath. We didn’t see the untempered frustration we’ve seen in the past.
“I just feel like I’ve really made some nice strides with my game, but I haven’t tested it yet,” Woods said.
Woods failed here in a large way, missing the cut by a whopping four shots. That’s four missed cuts in his last seven PGA Tour starts (Yeah, OK, that dates back to 2015’s woes). It’s the first time he has ever missed the cut at Torrey Pines, where he has won eight times.
But afterward, Woods sounded like an NFL coach evaluating a preseason game.
There’s a bigger picture he’s focused upon. There’s a real major championship season looming.
“I’m trying to get ready for the first full week in April,” Woods said of the Masters. “That’s where eventually I want to have everything together. That’s the plan. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to win this golf tournament on the weekend, but I have next week.”
Woods' efforts here can best be described as patient, and that’s the real upset. Even he seems to be surprised by the patience he is showing as he gets himself ready for the Masters.
“I’m not [normally] that kind of guy,” Woods said after following Thursday’s 76 on the South Course with a 72 on the North Course. “But having my two little ones definitely taught me how to be more patient. But, still, I would lean on the side of impatience.”
While Woods is cutting himself some slack making his first PGA Tour start in 17 months, understanding all the rust he needs to work off, the Masters is only 10 weeks away.
That puts Woods on a cram course of preparation.
It’s why this is the first of four starts in five weeks.
“The only concern is that I have a long flight ahead of me,” Woods said.
It’s 8,399 miles from San Diego to Dubai, where Woods will play the Omega Dubai Desert Classic next week. The best news for Woods is that his back, his knees, his neck, they all held up nicely playing a tough test at Torrey with all the thick, gnarly rough.
Woods leaves for Dubai encouraged by Friday’s play.
In that 76 Thursday on the more brutish South Course, Woods hit just four fairways and just nine greens in regulation. In his 72 on the North Course, which is shorter and less penal, he hit 10 fairways and 11 greens in regulation.
If Woods is going to compete at Augusta National, he needs to corral his driver. He needs it to beat today’s long-hitting young stars.
“Some of the things I fixed, everything was flowing nicely,” Woods said about Thursday’s sluggish start where he made three bogeys in a row and then a double bogey on the back nine.
Woods gave himself more chances on the North Course, but he could convert only two birdie putts.
“I hit it much better today,” Woods said. “I made a couple little tweaks and changes in my swing and my setup, which was good.”
With the Masters bearing down, we’ll see how long Woods can remain patient, because he’s got a long way to go to contend for his 15th major championship victory.
“It’s tough physically, it’s tough mentally,” Woods said. “For us to get major championships and get rolling and to win those and peak at the right time, it’s tough. Trying to piece everything together and get ready for that week in April is the goal.”
Time’s ticking on Woods' preparation and his patience.