Tiger Woods gets beat in the first round at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship and, immediately, he has a reason. The greens were not perfect. They werent at Pebble Beach, either, nor at San Diego. They arent at 99 percent of the courses that you the great unwashed play every day.
I dont understand a lot ' the greens, to get them ready for a big event like this, he started. A lot of events, thats what they do to get ready for a tour event, they try to get them real fast and real smooth. Unfortunately, they didnt do that.
Tiger was 1-under-par through 17 holes in his loss to Peter OMalley, who was 3-under. A lot of players were 3-under, 4-under. Paul McGinley was 6-under through the 14 holes it took him to close out Joe Durant. Obviously, a lot of guys were putting well the La Costa greens.
Up to now, Woods has been totally upfront in his no-win tournaments, hardly uttering a peep about the grasses. This year, the comments have been coming a little more often about this tournament or that tournament having greens that arent up to Tigers specifications.
He is No. 134 on tour in the putting statistics, 165th in putts per round - not good by any stretch of the imagination. To a dummy like me, it appears he is coming close on every putt. But every putt is bending at just the wrong moment, breaking outside the cup ever so slightly. His next one may be nothing more than a simple tap, but those one-inchers count the exact same as a 320-yard drive.
I hit good putts, he said after the OMalley setback. I had a nice little lip-out there on (No.) 2. Some of the putts I hit really well and they didnt break. A lot of the times, they were spent in the air bouncing. I got more mileage over the greens than I do when I travel all over the country.
There seems to be very little difference between a great putter and an average one. A little too much speed, not quite enough on this one, a wrong break, a lip-out or two...thats all it takes. When Tiger was going so great for those couple of years, all those putts were going in the cup dead-center. Now, they are missing by the narrowest of margins. Close ' very close, but it still counts as another stroke, just the same.
OMalley is No. 68 in the world. He had to travel from Australia. He arrived with an ailing shoulder and neck. He had to play against the No. 1 player in the world, within a hundred miles of that players old home. And with all that going against him, he still beat Tiger Woods.
Woods is going to win again soon, mark it down. Even Jack Nicklaus went through years when he won only once or twice. But Nicklaus suffered in silence, and eventually he would snap out of it and there he would go again, off another win streak.
As much as Tiger has learned, he still has a way to go. At the age of 26, he hasnt experienced a whole lot of failure. Hes going to have to learn to accept it a bit more gracefully, because just as surely as hole No. 2 follows hole No. 1, failure is going to come. The game of golf is just too unforgiving.
The greens are tough all over the northern hemisphere right now because they havent had a good growth stretch to fully get ready. The West Coast suffers because it is where the tour starts. When the tour gets to Florida next week, they will improve. And they will improve every week thereafter.
Maybe not so coincidentally, it is the time Woods play begins to improve dramatically. But for now, he is just a slightly better-than-average player. As surely as night follows the day, he will start making putts again. But for now, he isnt making them. Better to suffer the indignities in silence than to criticize another mans greens.