Tough times at Torrey for Tiger
January 26, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- Tiger Woods opened with a 4-over 76 at the Farmers Insurance Open. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO – As his birdie putt on the 18th hole dropped into the cup, Tiger Woods couldn’t help but let out a wry smile as his first PGA TOUR round in 523 days finished up.
It was a nice highlight in an otherwise rough return to the big stage for the 79-time TOUR winner at the Farmers Insurance Open – he opened with a 4-over 76, which was 11 shots off the lead.
The Woods of old would not have showed positive emotion when walking off in a tie for 133rd but the perspective was already there – he can’t expect miracles early on in a comeback, especially on a very tough track.
Torrey Pines’ South Course was showing its U.S. Open style teeth – softened by rains early in the week it was playing long. The same rain meant the rough is high and thick. Staying out of it would be the key.
Unfortunately for Woods he hit just 4 of 14 fairways. And just 9 of 18 greens.
Not even his sensational history of seven Farmers Insurance Open wins and a U.S. Open title on the track could help him in those lush lies.
It was his worst opening round to a calendar year in his career, surpassing the 73 he shot at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2015.
“I was fighting out there all day. Didn't really hit it that good,” Woods admitted afterward.
“I was in the rough most of the day and it was tough. It was wet.”
An opening hole bogey came after his tee shot drifted right into the thick stuff but the rest of the front nine produced some pretty astute scrambling considering his inaccuracy.
A 16-foot birdie try on the par-5 sixth – which he missed -- was his only decent look on the front side.
And then, when it appeared nothing much was happening for the 14-time major winner, Woods ignited the large galleries with back-to-back birdies on the 10th and 11th holes to get into red figures.
Sadly, it then all quickly unraveled as the rough bit hard.
Bogeys at Nos. 12, 13 and 14 followed and then further disaster struck on the par-4 15th when his tee shot snapped left into a ravine.
The ensuing double bogey had him losing patience fast. Another bogey on 17 followed before he made his 8-foot, 10-inch birdie at the last.
“Joey (caddie) kept telling me all day today, just be patient with it. I didn't quite smile at him a few of those times he said that. But I was fighting out there trying to get my ball around the golf course and score,” Woods said.
“I had it to 1 under par there through 11. I was in good shape with the par-5 coming up, we knew the tees were up and if I could just get through 12, drive in the fairway, and 13 we have an iron in there, I could put together a pretty good round.
“(But) it went the other way. I hit bad tee shots and made a bad three‑putt there at 13 and just laid up from the rough into the rough. I just kept compounding problems and mistakes out there.”
Aside from his inaccuracy Woods said he was also fighting bumpy greens and a slower pace of play then he’d become accustomed to in practice back in Florida.
Conditions pulled back the pace and the 5-hour, 20-minute round caught Woods off guard.
“It's just weird to say this but it was just we were playing so much slower than I'm used to. It was just weird waiting that much,” Woods said.
“Not used to doing that. At home I guess we're flying a little quicker than this. It was just a different rhythm. We were out there talking most of the day trying just to kill time.”
Woods said he would try to focus on the positives from the early portion of the round, particularly getting himself under par without his best stuff.
He will need to go low on the North Course on Friday to have a chance to make the weekend.
“I fought my tail off out there, I fought hard,” he said.
“We're going to go over on some better greens tomorrow, some better conditions and hopefully not only myself but the rest of the guys, we can put some good numbers up.”
World No. 1 Jason Day, who also battled throughout on the way to a 73, implored people to give Woods time to work back into tournament golf.
“Having 17 months off is a very, very long time. We can't just break down everything he did today because it's been 17 months,” Day said.
“Let him go a year, let him play and go from there. That's the same with us. We can't panic too much at the start of the year.
“Look at Rory's year last year. He really didn't do a lot until the FedExCup (Playoffs) and he ended up being the FedExCup champion.”
Tiger Woods extended highlights | Round 1 | Farmers
Tiger Woods news conference after Round 1 of Farmers