CHARLOTTE, N.C. – I walked 18 holes with Tiger Woods on Sunday – you know, like I do – and I saw zero birdies. Let’s talk about it.
• Unlike on Friday, when Tiger waited until his final hole to draw the only circle on his scorecard, his bid for birdie from 17 feet on the 18th green didn’t go. According to the Golf Channel Research team, this is just the sixth time in a non-major Woods has failed to record a birdie in a round. More jarring is this little nugget:
Tiger had 2 rounds this week with 1 or fewer birdies made. Woods went the entire 2000 and 2009 PGA Tour seasons without a single round making fewer than 2 birdies.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) May 6, 2018
So, yeah, not great.
• No surprise, the putting was poor again on Sunday. Everybody has their weeks where things just go sideways, but Tiger Woods – arguably the best clutch putter in the history of golf – did not break 30 putts in a round this week. He went 31-33-31-31 and headed to the parking lot -5.810 in strokes gained: putting. He talked all week about how he struggled to adjust to slower-than-anticipated putting surfaces, but to be honest these greens weren’t that slow. And they’re basically flawless. And he ran a number of putts by the hole today. And plenty of others guys managed to figure it out. I don’t know. Just one of those weeks.
• At least he seemed in good enough spirits about it after the round (and also clearly ready to turn the page to next week). “I hit the ball halfway decent today,” he said. “Hit some good drives that just ended up just off the fairway, some landed in the fairway, so I wasn't disappointed with that. Again, just did not putt well and didn't make a birdie today. I got shut out. … I think I need obviously to do some practicing with my putter, work on it just a little bit. … It was just a bad week, and good news is wipe your hands clean and go on to the next one.”
• On the plus side, this guy is absolutely mashing the ball. It is outrageous he’s driving it this far as a 42-year-old with a fused back. At the par-4 fifth today, he took the fairways bunkers out of playing by blowing it a good 50 yards past them. His drive was measured at 360 yards, 28 past Brandon Harkins, no slouch himself at 332. His clubhead speed – measured on the ninth hole this week – was twice clocked at more than 125 mph, including today, when he drove one 340 yards through the corner of the fairway.
• And it’s not just aimless power, either, like some kind bomb-and-gouge routine. Tiger walked off the golf course seventh in strokes gained: tee to green. The ball-striking was good to great. It was just his performance on the greens and some loose short-game shots that held him back from contending this week. If he manages to hit the ball like this at Sawgrass, and he putts even halfway normal, I don’t want to get too excited, but …
• Speaking of The Players, the PGA Tour announced Sunday that Tiger will be grouped with Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler for Rounds 1 and 2. And with that, I’m off to Ponte Vedra.