Sorry, I’m a little late to the party — I had the flu over the weekend and I was probably more miserable than Tiger Woods hacking up a 79 on Saturday at Torrey Pines to miss the second cut, also known as “MDF.” (When more than 78 players make the 36-hole cut, there’s a secondary cut following the third round that whittles the field down to top 70 and ties for the final round.)
And really, in anything oh-so-dramatic involving Tiger, it’s never too overdue to join the conversation. After all, TIGER WOODS ALMOST SHOT 80. OMG.
Woods rolled in a 10-footer for par on the final hole to avoid posting an 80 and settle with what was probably an equally disappointing seven-over 79.
Cue the dramatic overreaction from just about everyone. However, ESPN.com’s Bob Harig implies that Woods is just a bit rusty, according to his report:
Woods’ 7-over-par 79 at Torrey Pines’ South Course was his highest in 14 appearances in the event he has won seven times. He failed to birdie any of the par-5s over three rounds, finishing 4 over par on those holes.
And he heads to the Middle East for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour with, at the very least, some issues in his game.
“I’ve never seen him play like that,” said Jhonattan Vegas, who played with Woods during the third round.
Vegas is in some elite company.
It was among the five worst scores of Woods’ professional career. Only once has he failed to break 80 — an 81 in brutal wind conditions at the 2002 Open Championship at Muirfield. There have been three other 79s — the 1996 Australian Open, the 2010 Wells Fargo Championship and last year’s Memorial Tournament.
Woods signed several autographs after signing his scorecard but declined to speak with reporters.
On Friday, Woods said he was “just a fraction off,” and lamented a few shots that barely ended up in the rough. And he discounted a six-week layoff having any factor.
“I wouldn’t say it’s rusty, just a fraction off,” he said. “At this level and golf courses like this it doesn’t take much.”
With precision so often a trademark of his play around the greens, Woods struggled to get seemingly routine chips within a 10-foot circle, and by the time his second pitch found the hole for an improbable par at No. 8, he had resigned to hitting the ball without so much as a practice swing.
It all added up to perhaps the most puzzling outcome imaginable. After all, this place is Woods’ safety blanket. This is where it’s all supposed to make sense, where the best in the business can return from his offseason and shake off the rust without so much as a hiccup.
I think most of the golf world is staying relatively calm about Tiger’s crappy time at Torrey — as we should be. It was just a bit shocking because it came at a place where he’s had such historic success and dominated with eight total wins in his career (and nine, if you count the Junior World Championship).
Sure, Tiger’s getting older and his results are appearing to become more extreme — he either wins/top-5s or limps in the bottom half of the field. Wait, does that imply he’s no longer dominant after coming off a season with five regular Tour victories (including two WGCs and a Players Championship)?
Uh, well, it’s been over five years since he’s won a major and we’ve had this conversation before. The Tiger dominant/golden era officially ended after he plowed his car into a fire hydrant.
Woods tees it up next in Dubai this week on the European Tour. Don’t expect another 79 to show up on his scorecard.
Scott Stallings fought off a logjam of players and came out on top for the victory at Torrey Pines on Sunday. Stallings went for the 18th green in two and two-putted for birdie to get him to nine-under and to capture his third victory in four years.
And no, he never thought about laying up.
“You don’t get very many opportunities to win golf tournaments and I’ve been fortunate to come out ahead three times,” Stallings said. “As a player, all you ever want is chances. I didn’t necessarily understand the situation I was in as far as the score and so on and so forth, but I did know I had an opportunity.
“I think any player out here would tell you they would do the same thing in the same situation, and knowing that you have an opportunity to win a golf tournament, you have to hit a 4 iron on the green and two putt to win, every person on the PGA [Tour] would tell you the same thing.”
Phil Mickelson is questionable in his title defense at the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week. Mickelson withdrew from Torrey Pines last Friday due to a back injury and then he hopped on his jet cross-country to see a doctor, according to GolfChannel.com’s Jason Sobel:
After leaving Torrey Pines on Friday, Mickelson flew to Dalton, Ga., for a consultation with back specialist Tom Boers.
“My facet joints had locked up,” he said in a press release. “Tom restored my mobility, but I still have inflammation that will take a week or two to subside.”
Mickelson has already withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am in Phoenix and will not make himself available to media interviews prior to Thursday’s opening round.
“If it was any other tournament I’d skip it,” said Mickelson, “but I’m defending, it’s my second hometown and I love the event. I’ll have a light practice session and if it goes well I may try to play.”
On the bright side, if Phil WDs, it’s good news for all those alternates in the field who were either fully exempt, like 2013 Web.com Tour money list winner Michael Putnam and the guys who placed top-10 at Torrey Pines!
Jessica Korda won the LPGA season opener, the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, in a duel against Stacy Lewis to claim her second title. And Korda did it under extraordinary circumstances. She birdied the 18th hole and she just went through a swing overhaul two weeks prior, according to GolfChannel.com’s Randall Mell:
A couple weeks ago, Korda decided to overhaul her swing with the IMG Academy’s Grant Price (pictured), who is fighting cancer. She took a work in progress to the Bahamas. After taking the lead into Saturday, she started unraveling with old swing habits creeping into her game. She hooked a tee shot at the seventh hole into a hazard. She shanked a wedge at the 13th hole sideways, knocking her ball out of bounds.
Somehow, some way, Korda put herself back together.
“I didn’t let it get to me,” Korda said. “I hooked a bunch of shots in the water this week, hooked a bunch of shots in general. I might have shanked a shot, but I birdied the next hole after that. I definitely wasn’t looking back. I was looking forward.”
Her new coach couldn’t have taught that better.
Finally, Sergio Garica won the Qatar Masters, beating Mikko Illonen on the third playoff hole with a birdie. This was Garcia’s second victory in three events.
Oh, and I’m back on Tour in Phoenix this week — well, at least until Friday when I jet back to New York for the Super Bowl (hey, my Seahawks are in it, so I’m not watching this one in the depths of a cart barn at TPC Scottsdale!). Stay tuned here and over in all my social media channels for behind-the-scenes coverage!