When I tuned in for coverage of the final round of the Frys.com Open, I cringed a little as I saw Tiger Woods wearing his signature Red Shirt with no chance to contend and starting on the wrong nine (he was in the first group to tee off on No. 10). Then there was the whole hot dog assault, which is farcical in some regards and, as several say, symbolic of how far Tiger’s fallen.
Given his methodical logic, Tiger probably has a plan mapped out for his comeback and he might be using these minor events and the Presidents Cup as warmups for 2012. I mean, what did we expect from Tiger last week, anyway? Not a “W.”
I wasn’t at CordeValle, but from what I saw on the telecast and heard and read from colleagues, it sounded like the same old story from the last two years, where we’ve seen flashes of brilliance of pre-hydrant Tiger, but post-hydrant Tiger has lacked the consistency to put four solid rounds together. He’s been injured, so we’ll cut him some slack. And then he’s gone through a swing overhaul, so we’ll cut him more slack. Upon Tiger’s return last week, he was healthy and more prepared, so we’re running out of slack. Yet, he continues to emphasize needing more reps. And I’m pretty sure he’ll continue saying that until he wins another major.
In the final round of the Frys.com Tiger birdied four of his first six holes, causing premature celebration that he’s “back.” These days I’m not holding my breath. The description of last week’s Tiger sounds a lot like the one I saw at Firestone over two months ago — pretty solid ballstriking, pretty poor short game and a lot of rust — which was expected after nearly a four-month layoff due to injuries endured at the Masters.
Woods hit eight fairways, his best performance off the tee, on Sunday, and recorded 14 of 18 greens in regulation (which is kinda skewed due to the course, I’m told) in every round except the first. So it’s true, he is improving, like he keeps telling us, but shooting three straight 68s and tying for 30th isn’t going to impress me — because I expect more from Tiger. Sure, it’s a process, but when does this process finally come together? It’s likely not happening this year.
“I got better every day, and unfortunately, a couple times where I kind of didn’t get the momentum going when I had a couple of chances to make putts or I hit a bad shot, like, for instance, today, I was rolling there,” said Tiger in his post-round presser. “I was 4‑under…I could have just really got it rolling, and I had a couple opportunities like that, both yesterday and again today.”
He said he took the wrong club on the par-3 16th, which halted his momentum when he walked away with a bogey.
Asked to attribute not capitalizing on such opportunities, Tiger responded: “I haven’t played much. That comes with competitive flow, understanding the situations and feels, and game time’s a little bit different. I really haven’t played a whole lot since the Masters.”
Fair enough. And he only played last week to appease Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples — who said Tiger couldn’t just show up the week before in Australia — and the critics. Oh, there’s also the speculation about an endorsement deal in the works with Fry’s, the title sponsor.
He’s played in eight official events this season (nine if you count the Tavistock Cup and ten if you count the nine holes at The Players before he withdrew). Last season wasn’t much better — he made 12 official starts on the PGA Tour, but also played in the Ryder Cup, the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Chevron World Challenge, an exhibition that benefits his foundation.
Tiger constantly talks about needing more reps, but then doesn’t add more tournaments. It’s hard to get into a flow when you play one tournament and then take another month off before the next event. To be fair, he doesn’t have that many options, but if he really wanted to play, he could make it happen.
I understand Tiger has “family obligations” — which was his response when asked if he’d consider adding Disney, the final Fall Series event — and he also has corporate commitments. He’s hosting his own Tiger Woods Invitational Tuesday-Thursday at Pebble Beach, so he couldn’t play in this week’s McGladrey Classic. And he’s not qualified for the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai during the first week of November. Instead, he’s going to Japan for an exhibition to play with three JLPGA ladies.
I get that he wants to be a good dad, but would it have been impossible to switch weeks with ex-wife Elin Nordegren so he could play the Disney? It’s right up the road for him in Orlando and he used to play in that event before it became part of the Fall Series.
Then again, why bother? There aren’t any majors left this season and in Tiger’s world, those are the only four tournaments that really matter. But times have changed and perhaps he should shift his focus (and maybe he has). Just a plain old win would be great. Anywhere. Realistically, we’ll have to wait for next year (but he could dazzle us at the Presidents Cup).
I’m just sick of hearing the Tiger-speak about needing more reps because it’s a load of crap (in related news, the sky is blue, water is wet, etc.). He gives the same responses to irk the press and he doesn’t want to reveal too much.
“It’s getting there,” he said. “It’s a process. I don’t know what the end is. You know, that’s one of those things when the career is all said and done, then you know. But I’m in the midst of it and I know I’m getting better and that’s the tough part.”
Next competitive stop for Tiger? The Australian Open followed by the Presidents Cup in a month’s time, but for the real deal, we’ll have to wait ’til Torrey Pines in the new year.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)