Jan
30
2015
Tiger’s chipping still choppy
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Tiger Woods opened up his presser with a Marshawn Lynch joke, cracking, “I’m just doing this so I don’t get fined,” as he stepped up to the podium. For a guy who shot his worst-career round of his PGA Tour career with an 11-over 82, that was somewhat surprising, but sometimes you have to turn to humor when things go so poorly.

Woods, who posted 13-over par in the first two rounds, will miss the cut in his 2015 debut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. In fact, he’s currently in 132rd place in the 132-man field. Yep. DFL.

Woods got off to a rough start and never recovered, posting a 44 on the back nine (his first nine), which matched his career-worst nine-hole score as a pro (back nine in the third round of the 2013 Memorial Tournament).

So, what went wrong? Well, just about everything, but Woods explained it by echoing much of what he sad following Thursday’s 73.

“I was caught right between (swing) patterns, just old pattern, new pattern,” he said. “And I got it better, more committed to what I was doing in my back nine and hit some better shots, but I still got a lot of work to do.”

No kidding. In 1,109 rounds on the PGA Tour, Woods has only failed to break 80 twice now — in 2002 at the Open Championship, he shot 81 at Muirfield. It is also the first time in Tiger’s career that he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour — his last start was at the PGA Championship, where his quest for the elusive 15th major ended before the weekend started.

Woods improved on his second nine, posting a three-over 38. When he made the turn, his goal was to keep fighting.

“Just keep grinding each and every shot,” he said. “That’s all I can do. It was not a very good day from the very start until the end, but I fought all day.”

Woods struggled again with his chipping, hitting some atrocious shots around the green. (Not a swing expert, but it looks like he’s taking it back with a closed club face and then flinging his wrists down at the ball.)

On the par-4 14th, Woods’ second shot came up just short of the small hill to the raised green. Apparently he was in a old divot, but he hit a chip that resembled something my mom might do — and she doesn’t play golf. The shot ran a couple yards on the ground before stopping a couple of feet short of the fringe. The poor chip led to his first double-bogey of the day.

It got worse on the next hole, the par-5 15th. Woods pulled his tee shot into the water hazard guarding the left side. He dropped in the native area and punched out. His fourth shot ended up in the front green side bunker. He hit an awful sand shot out and over the green to the other side. Then, he chunked his chip from the rough onto the fringe.

On the par-3 no. 4, Woods launched an iron over the green. He bladed this chip into the front bunker and followed it with a poor sand shot, which all led to another double-bogey.

Even if he won’t admit it, it seems clear to just about anyone who’s been around the game long enough that Tiger has the chipping yips — something you don’t wish upon your worst enemy.

“It is mental to an extent because the physical pattern is different,” said Woods when asked if his chipping woes were mental. “So obviously when the physical pattern is different, the trust is not quite there. I’m not bottoming out in the same spot.

“Yeah, to an extent, yes it is, but I need to physically get the club in a better spot.”

Woods called his struggles “part of the process” and said he needs more reps in tournament play.

“You’ve got to get out there and do it,” said Tiger. “Hitting golf balls is one thing and playing golf at home is another. Playing tournament golf is entirely another. I have to continue with the process. I have been here before. It wasn’t that long ago that I changed my swing with Sean (Foley), and I was Player of the Year only a year ago (in 2013). You’ve gotta keep things in perspective, and sometimes it’s difficult to do that.”

Perhaps that’s why Woods kicked off his presser with a joke. The mood after his round was bleak, but all things considered, it could’ve been more grim if Woods hadn’t been able to laugh a little.

“We all have days like this,” he said. “Unfortunately, mine was in a public forum, in a public setting. We all have days like this. We take the good with the bad, and the thing is even on bad days like this, just keep fighting, because, you know, on the good days you’ve got to keep fighting, as well.”

Woods is expected to play in next week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where he’s won eight times as a professional. His plan after leaving Phoenix was to fly home to Florida, which means he isn’t staying in town for the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, I didn’t act quick enough to ask him for his tickets/passes before he made a beeline for the parking lot.