Tiger Woods’ play at Farmers gives reasons for optimism
Nine takeaways from Tiger’s Torrey Pines performance
January 28, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods capitalizes on huge drive for birdie at Farmers
After making his first official PGA TOUR start in exactly a year and his first cut since the 2015 Wyndham Championship, Tiger Woods shot a final-round 72 at breezy, warm Torrey Pines on Sunday. He finished the week at 3-under, well back.
What did we learn?
1 Woods seems to be pain-free. After four back surgeries in less than four years, priority one for Woods, 42, is to stay healthy. That was the case at the Farmers, where he tested his fused back with all sorts of lies. Woods spent so much time in the long grass, Nick Faldo spoke for many when he said before the final round, “He’s pounded the back more than I thought he was going to have to do.” When it was all over, Woods said, “To be able to take cuts like I did, hit out of weird lies, it’s something that I didn’t know that I could do yet because there’s really no rough in Florida right now. It was nice to get out here and do it in competition.”
2 He is fighting wildness with the driver. Woods hit just three of 14 fairways on Friday (71), Saturday (70) and Sunday (72), and some of his misses were off the planet. Although you wouldn’t know it from the stat line, he was better Sunday, when he split the 10th fairway with a 278-yard opening tee shot, bombed a wind-aided drive 358 yards into the short grass at the first hole, and missed a handful of fairways by just a few paces. Still, he hit a grand total of just nine fairways over the last three days and he was last in the field in driving accuracy. “I feel like I played a lot better today,” he said Sunday. “These conditions, they were tough.”
3 He has been working on his short game. Woods averaged 27.5 putts per round. He also got up-and-down seven times in nine chances for the second day in a row Saturday, after which he was asked what might have happened without his A+ short game. “It would have been snowing,” Woods said, alluding to a score in the 80s. By the time he nearly holed his pitch shot from just in front of the sixth green Sunday, setting up a tap-in for par, his chipping problems from 2015 seemed like a distant memory. “Yeah, these weren’t down the middle, on the green, hit the first putt, one-hand the second one,” Woods said. “These were tough, tough scores. I had to fight for each and every one, and that’s very pleasing. I can grind it out with the best of them.”
4 He still has a nose for the competition. Woods flirted with the cut line in the second round but made it to the weekend with a final-hole birdie. He also scratched out a 2-under 70 in the third round when by his own admission, “I didn’t have it.” Third-round playing partner Brandt Snedeker spoke of being impressed with Woods’ “fight and his grind.” When Woods got to 5-under through 12 holes Sunday, and J.B. Holmes bogeyed, Woods was briefly within five of the lead. He later said he thought a 65 might get him into a playoff, given the windy conditions.
5 His golf mind remains sharp. Woods has won the Farmers seven times, and has two other victories at Torrey, the 2008 U.S. Open and 1991 Junior World. His course knowledge and his usually sharp mental game were a potent one-two punch as he proved the adage that golf is a game of good misses. “I was trying to miss the ball on the correct sides,” he said after the third round, “because I knew I didn’t have it. Trying to give myself the correct angles and I did that most of the day.” He could have said the same after the other three rounds, too.
6 He still brings the crowds. Woods drew the biggest galleries all week. What else is new? Some had seen him before, others were just curious. “Have you ever seen a living legend?” one fan asked. Others still used the occasion to dress up, such as the female fan in a fur tiger suit that had to have been a little warm. Asked about the crowds, Woods said, “Yeah, I haven’t had people yelling like that in a while. It’s been pretty quiet at Medalist and back home.”
7 He is still long. Woods took a healthy rip at the ball all week, and often outdrove his younger playing partners, even with a fused back. His 358-yard drive at the first hole Sunday, his 10th of the day, left one fan marveling, “I can’t even see that far.”
8 He will be busy in his off-weeks. Woods will not play in the Waste Management Phoenix Open or the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but is expected to be back in action for the Genesis Open at Riviera, for the first time since 2006, potentially followed by The Honda Classic at PGA National. “I can feel some of the things I’m doing wrong in my swing,” Woods said, “so we’re going to go back to work.” Said Faldo, “I think I’m going to give him another go. You know, this is one year out; an awful lot of rust. I know how I would feel.”
9 He may just need more tournament play. Snedeker, in the early stages of coming back from a rib injury, said he was expecting to contend after shooting a 65 in the Wednesday pro-am. It didn’t happen for him, underlining the difference between practice and tournament rounds. He doesn’t need to tell Woods. The Farmers was just the first step in what will hopefully be a longer journey back for the 79-time PGA TOUR winner. “It’s nice to have two weeks off,” Woods said. “But it’s more important that I got this tournament under my belt where I can feel some of the things I need to work on because, you know, hometown speed versus game speed is two totally different things. As much as we try to simulate it at home, it’s never the same.”
Tiger Woods' interview after Round 4 of Farmers