Tiger Woods looked like he lost interest — or rather, patience and concentration — on his way to a four-shot victory at the Farmers Insurance Open, in what was a long, drawn-out Monday finish, where play was so slow that you could take a solid power nap without missing a shot. You think I’m exaggerating? Hardly.
At one point, Woods held an eight-shot lead and for obvious reasons, like the fact he’s never missed a cut in 13 starts at this event, or that he had already won the PGA Tour tourney seven previous times, not to mention his eighth victory at Torrey Pines, counting the 2008 U.S. Open, his last major (number 14), in a dramatic 18-hole playoff against Rocco Mediate.
“I played really well through 13 today, and built myself a nice little lead, made a few mistakes coming home, but I had a big enough cush that it was fine,” said Tiger after posting a final-round even par 72, 14-under total, and winning by four shorts over defending champ Brandt Snedeker and Sergio doppelganger Josh Teater.
“In the end I just started losing my patience. It was so slow out there. We played nine holes in just over three hours and three of them are par3s. That’s not fast. As I said, I had an 8shot lead. So just needed to stay up right, and I was going to be fine.”
Not that this necessarily means something, but in the past when he’s won his PGA Tour season opener — which he’s achieved six times from 1997-2012 (1997, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008) — he went on to win 37 total events (average 6.16 wins per season). He also won a major in five of those six years, with 2003 being the only one where he came up major-less.
Ten years later, we still have to wait until April when the azaleas and dogwood are blooming in Georgia for Tiger to take his first stab at snapping his almost-five-year-majors drought.
Woods was destined to win the event after he opened with a four-under 68 on the South Course, which he followed with a seven-under 65 in the second round. I know I was just about ready to hand him the trophy. Saturday’s third round turned out to be a wash due to fog, and after almost everyone — besides guys like Tiger and Phil — played the waiting game and sat around at Torrey all day, hoping for the marine layer to clear.
The Tour had to improvise and decided to start the third round first thing in the morning on Sunday morning, with a 30-45- minute break in between the third and fourth rounds. They didn’t repair, so hopefully the guys liked their fellow playing partners for those brutally slow final 36 holes.
As one caddie, whose player notched a top ten, quipped, “There was nothing fast about those last 36.”
It was already a foregone conclusion Tiger would notch his 75th career win on the PGA Tour, but the pace to make it official was glacial. Because of the weather and the large group pf players who made the cut, it contributed to the slow play, but still, that shouldn’t be an excuse. Usually, the network does a decent job of covering up or distracting viewers from this tour epidemic, but it was so bad on Sunday and Monday that there was nothing CBS/Golf Channel could do to try and hide the fact that the last group had to wait 5-10 minutes on every shot. It was like that for several groups spread around the course. Some were fast and some were slow, but one thing’s for sure, it was a massive problem.
It also led to Tiger hitting some…err…interesting shots on the back nine. I’d never seen him look like he cared so little and just wanted to get the round over with. On the 14th he rushed his greenside bunker shot. His playing partners Billy Horschel and Casey Wittenberg were still walking toward the green when Tiger decided to go ahead and hit the shot. That rarely — or never — happens. He ended up hitting a less-than-mediocre out from the sand, leaving him with a 50-footer for par, which me missed to card his first bogey of the day.
Then, on the 15th tee he snap hooked it off the tee so far left that it was in hazard and buried amongst the ice plants. He had to take a penalty shot and drop. Woods posted a double-bogey, but there was never a doubt he wasn’t going to pull this one out. It was just a matter of finishing. The closing holes were ugly, but it’s challenging to keep your rhythm and patience when you’re playing at a pace that may rival Congress, as CBS funny man David Feherty quipped.
“Well, the group ahead of us was a hole behind most of the entire back nine,” said Tiger in his press conference as tactfully as possible. “I don’t know if they were warned or not or they were timed. But we were just playing slow. We were just having to wait on every shot, so it got a little slow.
“The three of us were losing our patience a little bit out there. I certainly was. Unfortunately, it affected my play a little bit.”
Apparently it varied for everyone. There was some groups faster than others, and then several that were very far behind and slow.
Woods attributed to his fine play (with the exception of the last five or so holes) to his driving (huh? — he certainly hit some interesting ones, but that’s the “old” Tiger, who would miss it a handful or so times, but managed to still make par or birdie from somewhere other than the fairway, while his iron play, recovery shots and short game compensated for stray drives.
“Well, I drove the ball beautifully all week,” said Woods, who was mysterious about his next start but all signs point to the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at the end of February. “As I was explaining that my short game has been coming around. It came around at the end of last season, and you’re not going to hit every par-5 in two, but you need to get up-and-down, and I did that this week.
“My short game was back to how I know it can be. My shots that I hit, especially out of these nasty little lies, I hit some really good ones this week. And that allowed me to save some pars, save some birdies, and move my way up the board, and basically that’s what I did.”
Like I said, vintage Tiger.
Added Woods: “I think it’s a product of, as I said, my short game and getting that organized. I was hitting the ball beautifully most of the year and driving the ball better than I have probably in my entire career last year. It was nice to not have to hit so many golf balls on the range and work on the little things.
“You only have so much time in a day, and obviously, with family responsibilities, that’s a priority. It was nice to be able to now not hit so many golf balls and work on my short game. I think that’s where you’re seeing the rounds evolve. I’m saving a shot here, saving a shot there, and that’s leading to a birdie here and a birdie there. Next thing you know, it’s a three, fourshot swing.”
Naturally, everyone is jumping the gun and comparing Tiger’s victory on Monday to his previous seasons.
“Well, I think it’s efficient,” said Woods when asked about his game back in ’07-’09 (pre-scandal). “I’m not going to compare it to those years, because each one’s different. I had a different swing then, just like I did back in ’99, 2000, 2001. Those are all different swings. But the commonality is I won golf tournaments, and that’s what I’m doing again.”
Good answer. C’mon guys, we’re in a different, new Tiger era. Can we just move on and appreciate the Tiger of 2013? I know there’s a lot of pressure and anticipation for his quest to win major number 15, but I’m so sick of the comparisons to the old Tiger.
Asked during his post-victory press conference, “Are you back?” (Ugh, I can’t stand that storyline.)
Woods, smiling, quickly replied, “Never left.”
Another great answer.
How he felt to (finally finish) capture his 75th Tour victory?
“Joy,” he said, simply. “I feel great. It’s nice to actually walk around here without any discomfort. That was a different kind of week, but this week was just, I played great and built a nice little lead there.”
Meanwhile, defending champion Snedeker, who finished hours before Woods did, wasn’t pleased with the way he closed.
“It was a good week,” said the 2012 FedExCup champion. “I was a little disappointed with the way I finished today. Just didn’t roll the ball the way I wanted to all week. Had a good little stretch in my third round, being the fourth round, end of the third round. But you’ve got to roll the ball really well around here, and I didn’t do a good job of that in the second round. It’s a little frustrating because it’s normally something I think I can do well.
“It was a good last 36 holes, but I’ve still got a lot of stuff to work on for next week.”
Brandt was hoping to get to 14-under, which would have forced a playoff with Woods.
“I thought if I could get out and play 14-under that I might have a chance,” said Snedeker, who shot a final-round 69. “The conditions are tough. The wind is blowing. It’s cold. The ball is not rolling real far. So I knew this course could yield some bogeys, but that being done, you’ve still got to post it…
“I guess it was a good title defense. I’m not really excited about the way I finished. If I had made three birdies going into today, I’d probably be more excited about it. But that’s how you judge it is how you finish, and I didn’t finish very well, so that’s very frustrating.
“But at the beginning of the week if you had told me I’d have a chance on the back nine on Sunday, I probably would have taken it. So it’s something to build on.”
I’ll leave you with something to think about: Tiger has won more times at Torrey Pines alone, whereas about 90% of his fellow competitors have no titles to their name.
Tiger Woods, y’all!
2013 Farmers Insurance Open statistics:
Driving Distance 307.3
Driving Accuracy 32 of 56 (57.1 percent) T17
Greens in Regulation 50 of 72 (69.4 percent) T34
Putts Per Round 28.5
Random notes on Tiger and his win:
*With his win today, Woods becomes the first player in TOUR history to win on the same golf course eight times. Woods has seven victories in the Farmers Insurance Open and one U.S. Open win at Torrey Pines. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times between 1938 and 1965 but those wins came at different courses – four at Starmount Forest CC and four at Sedgefield CC.
*Woods has now converted 50 of 54 third-round leads/co-leads on TOUR. He has converted his last three third-round leads: 2009 BMW Championship, 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational and 2013 Farmers Insurance Open.
*The largest winning margin in tournament history is eight shots by Tiger Woods in 2008. Tom Watson (1977) and Fuzzy Zoeller (1979) own the next-largest victory margin of five shots. Wood’s victory margins in this event:
1999 2 strokes
2003 4 strokes
2005 3 strokes
2007 2 strokes
2008 8 strokes
2013 4 strokes
*In the years that Woods has won this event, he has gone on to record multiple wins in each of those years:
1999 8 wins
2003 5 wins
2005 6 wins
2006 8 wins
2007 7 wins
2008 4 wins
*Woods has never missed a cut in 13 starts at the Farmers Insurance Open. Through 54 rounds at Torrey Pines now, Woods is 51/54 at par-or-better and 47/54 for sub-par rounds. Of his 47 sub-par rounds, 37 have been in the 60s.
*Woods has won seven times at the Farmers Insurance Open, and has held the 54-hole lead four times (1999, 2003, 2008 and 2013).
*For the week, Woods played the par-3’s in 4-under par, the par-4’s in 2-over par and the par-5’s in 12-under par.
*This week was the second time that Woods has held the 36-hole lead in the Farmers Insurance Open. In 2008, he led by four after 36 holes, before winning by eight over Ryuji Imada.
*With his win this week, the Farmers Insurance Open becomes the third event on the PGA TOUR which he has won seven times. The others are the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
*Woods’ average winning margin of victory in his seven wins at the Farmers Insurance Open is 3.285 strokes.
*Woods collects his 75th career win on TOUR. Sam Snead is the all-time leader with 82 wins.
Finally, what I thought was the shot of the day. I said, WOW, aloud, so it had to have been. Just kidding. I know how difficult that shot could have been (long bunker shots like that are challenging). Check it out.
(OK, video won’t embed, so here’s the link.)
We had a WUP Hangout on Monday morning around the time that the players re-started the final round on Monday. Thanks again for those who contributed, watched and asked questions. Again, constructive criticism and feedback welcome and appreciated.