Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 01/26/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
SAN DIEGO -- Tiger Woods made his 2014 debut in a most dubious fashion -- his first trip to Torrey Pines without sticking around until Sunday.
Woods went seven straight holes making bogey or worse and wound up with a 7-over 79 in the Farmers Insurance Open to match his worst score on American soil. For the first time in his career, he missed a 54-hole cut that is in effect when more than 78 players make it to the weekend.
Woods had to rally just to break 80.
After another poor chip on the par-3 eighth hole (his 17th of the third round), he chipped in to save par. On the par-5 ninth hole, he flubbed another chip to about eight feet and made that for par and a 79.
Asked to stop for a comment with CBS Sports, Woods said, "No, I'm done." He signed a dozen autographs, climbed into a van and was driven away.
Perhaps the most remarkable figure of this week: He didn't make a single birdie on a par 5 over three rounds. In fact, he played them in 4-over par.
Still, what made the round so shocking is where it happened.
Woods was the defending champion and an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines as a pro, which includes his last major in the 2008 U.S. Open. He won a Junior World Championship on this public course along the ocean as a teenager. Woods had only finished out of the top 10 one time at Torrey on the PGA Tour. That was in 2011, when his game was going through a major overhaul.
"It was definitely different seeing him make so many bogeys," said Jhonattan Vegas, who played alongside Woods on a gorgeous day with very little wind. "He's human. You don't expect to see that, but it's the game. It happens to everyone, and it happened to him today."
The highest score of his career was an 81 in the third round of the British Open at Muirfield, when he played most of his round in rain and 64 km/h wind. Woods also had a 79 in the Memorial last year, at the Quail Hollow Championship in 2010 and in the first round of the 1996 Australian Open.
As stunning as it was to see, there was little cause for alarm. This makes the second straight year Woods was eliminated early in his season-opening tournament. He missed the cut in Abu Dhabi a year ago after being assessed a two-shot penalty for taking relief from a sandy area.
He went on to win five times last year and was voted PGA Tour player of the year for the 11th time.
He spoke earlier in the week about being off, which was plausible given the conditions at Torrey, especially on the South Course. For as dry as it has been this week, the rough is thicker and more lush than usual, especially right off the edge of the fairway. On the opening hole, Woods narrowly missed the fairway and could only advance the ball some 80 yards.
But he went south quickly on the fabled South Course. Woods was in the fairway, 254 yards from the flag on the par-5 18th in the middle of his round.
A birdie would have put him within five shots of the leaders, who had just started the third round on the front.
His shot came up short and into the water, and his fourth shot flew the green into a plugged lie in the bunker. Woods blasted out and took two putts for bogey. On the first hole, he missed the green and chipped to 30 feet and three-putted for another double bogey, missing his bogey putt from just over two feet. It was the first time since the second round of the 2011 PGA Championship that he made consecutive double bogeys.
Then it was just one blunder after another -- a three-putt on the par-3 third, a tee shot into the bunker on the fourth. From a front bunker on the par-5 sixth, he flew the green, chipped weakly to six feet and missed that par putt.
So when he ended that ugly streak with a birdie on the seventh, he removed his cap and waved to the crowd.
In the midst of this meltdown, Woods still found some perspective. Walking up the hill to the ninth tee, he spotted CBS Sports reporter Peter Kostis, working his first tournament since his bout with prostate cancer. Kostis walked over and Woods whispered into his ear that it was good to see him back at work.
Woods now goes to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic next week.
-- The Associated Press
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2014 B11
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