Woods (79) bombs at familiar Torrey Pines

By Will GrayJanuary 25, 2014, 11:55 pm

SAN DIEGO – For years, Tiger Woods’ nearly annual trek to Torrey Pines has felt almost scripted.

Show up, tee off, wait four days and pick up the trophy behind the 18th green. Wash, rinse, repeat.

As he set his sights on a ninth professional win on the South Course this week, though, things seemed a little off. Then they seemed a lot off. Then Woods bottomed out with a mind-boggling 79 Saturday, missing a 54-hole cut for the first time in his PGA Tour career in the process.

Trouble began to brew for the world’s top-ranked player Thursday, when he failed to capitalize on any of the four par 5s at the South Course. That turned out to be just the beginning of a startling trend, as he played 12 par 5s in 4 over for the week without recording a single birdie.

An area of prior strength was first neutralized, then ultimately turned into an improbable liability.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, videos and photos


Despite the early hiccup, though, the seven-time Farmers Insurance Open champion was expected to make up ground on the easier North Course Friday. A pedantic 1-under 71 resulted, and ground was instead lost.

Woods approached Saturday’s third round knowing that he needed a low score to return to contention, and his early tee-to-green approach demonstrated that fact. He was firing at pins – sometimes missing, but finding the target more than once – and stood in the 18th fairway, his ninth hole of the morning, in ideal position. He was 1 under on the day, 2 under for the week with fairway wood in hand, still with an outside shot of climbing back into things.

Then the wheels fell off.

The two hours of golf that followed his splash-down double bogey at No. 18 were the likes of which you hardly ever see from a PGA Tour professional, let alone the best player in the game. Mistakes followed one after the other, errors were compounded, and when Woods walked off the sixth green with bogey, he capped off a seven-hole stretch of play during which he lost an astonishing nine shots to par.

“You don’t expect to see that out of him,” explained Jhonattan Vegas, who carded a 2-over 74 Saturday while playing alongside Woods. “But like I said, it’s a game. It even happens to the best. It happens to everyone.”

The “it” in question was a complete and utter unraveling for Woods, a stretch of nearly unrecognizable golf that was only accentuated by his past dominance on the scenic South Course. The 7-over 79 was just his fourth career over-par round at Torrey Pines, and the total was more than 10 shots above his career scoring average in San Diego.

“I don’t know what was going through his head, but it was definitely different seeing him make so many bogeys,” continued Vegas. “We’re not used to seeing him make so many mistakes.”

Indeed, the miscues offered up by the 14-time major champ were more reminiscent of the group of amateurs that gathered Saturday to play the adjacent North Course. A pair of missed putts from inside four feet. Pitches sailing over the green. Approach shots flying from one patch of thick rough to the next.

When Woods knocked in a 10-foot putt to save par at No. 9, he avoided shooting in the 80s for just the second time in his professional career, but the damage was already done. His week along the Pacific was brought to an abrupt end Saturday, as he became one of nine casualties of the 54-hole cut necessitated when 82 players made it to the weekend.

Three days ago, such a result seemed beyond implausible. Woods received his 2013 Player of the Year trophy Wednesday from commissioner Tim Finchem and appeared poised to begin his 2014 season as he had so many before – by walking off the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines about one million dollars richer.

Instead, he now heads halfway around the world to Dubai on the heels of his first career MDF finish on the PGA Tour – also known as Made cut, Did not Finish. Hardly the distinction Woods was in search of this week.

While in the past his ultra-high rounds have sometimes been met with a wince or an explanation, Woods offered neither Saturday as he appeared pain-free throughout the round but left Torrey Pines without speaking to the media. What his inward nine lacked in back stretches, though, Woods made up for with what appeared to be general indifference.

With precision so often a trademark of his play around the greens, Woods struggled to get seemingly routine chips within a 10-foot circle, and by the time his second pitch found the hole for an improbable par at No. 8, he had resigned to hitting the ball without so much as a practice swing.

It all added up to perhaps the most puzzling outcome imaginable. After all, this place is Woods’ safety blanket. This is where it’s all supposed to make sense, where the best in the business can return from his offseason and shake off the rust without so much as a hiccup.

Instead, Woods’ storied history at Torrey Pines will now receive an unlikely footnote – one that creates more questions than answers as the season begins in earnest for the top-ranked player in the world.

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Getty Images

Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.

Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.

Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 

Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

Getty Images

Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.

Getty Images

Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.