All things considered, Tiger Woods has had a rock solid last set of days. Albeit his game was not flawless during that span, his display at the Farmers Insurance Open turned some heads.
The fact that Woods was able to turn heads is not just related to the golfer’s extreme prestige. On the other hand, it is because the athlete did something he has not done in well over two years. On Sunday, Tiger successfully finished 72 holes of the above mentioned PGA tour event. What is every bit as noteworthy is that Woods finished the event without going above par.
Moreover, it worth mentioning another crucial element about Woods’ performance. Despite undergoing several serious back surgeries over the last several years, his play at Torrey Pines suggests that his history did not faze him. As a matter of fact, the world’s former top golfer never seemed to grimace about anything pain related.
Unfortunately, though, one scenario on Sunday did provide plenty of reason for grimacing. Alas, the despicable display is by no means relative to anything Woods did. Conversely, it pertains to one of the spectators on hand at the event.
On the 13th green, Woods had a golden opportunity to collect his first birdie of the day. Alas, according to what SB Nation’s Emily Kay reports, a not so thoughtful fan screamed “get in the hole” as Woods was in the midst of his follow-through.
Granted the knucklehead fan did what he did, Tiger truly showed flashes of his old self at Torrey Pines. Where Woods was perhaps at his best was closer to the dish. Unlike a few years back, Woods did not waste time when using his wedge and putter. Cameron Morfit of pgatour.com discusses this as well in a recent piece he compiled. In it, Morfit includes Woods’ thoughts about his short game during the Farmers Insurance Open.
“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.”
Given that his four rounds (72-71-70-72) all hover around that par figure, it was clearly a “grind,” indeed. However, this time the grind did not adversely affect Woods. There was certainly a pep in his step, so to speak, which has not been seen too often in recent years.
In an interview with ESPN Senior Writer Bob Harig, Woods expressed his elevated confidence. In spite of not even knowing himself what he could do, his last four rounds indicate that he was not going to crumble.
“I think it was all very positive,” Woods said after shooting even-par 72 at Torrey Pines’ South course. “The big concern was playing out of the rough. I haven’t played out of rye grass since last year — 12 full months. I wasn’t sure what I was able to do. I hit some shots, very happy about that. Unfortunately, I put myself in there. Overall, I’m very happy the way I was able to fight out the scores.”
Even supposing that there is plenty of reason to be optimistic, Woods’ game was far from impeccable. More than anything else, though, there is one area that stands out. Big Cat did not earn his stripes on the fairways this weekend whatsoever. During the tournament, Woods only hit 17 out of a possible 56, a career low over four rounds.
Great note from the ESPN Stats and Info crew: Tiger Woods hit 17 fairways this week, the lowest number (by three) in his PGA Tour career.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) January 28, 2018
His overall inaccuracy in that neck of the woods is not unfixable, though. A lot of it is purely mechanical and boils down to timing.
What was encouraging about his swing off the tee was a noticeable amount of power. Sure, that same power frequently resulted in a shot that was erratic and untamed in nature at best. Nevertheless, Tiger’s swing sometimes caused fans to think of the kind of golfer he used to be back in the day. Absolutely dominant.
To build on this, what is curious is that some of those fans are acclaimed names in the world of golf. The Washington Post’s Chuck Culpepper recently showered his readers with a couple of these names and their perspectives on what Tiger executed at Torrey Pines. Suffice to say, both Culpepper and the pair of golf experts did not speak lightly of Woods.
“He looked like one of those 42-year-olds whose friends might comment about his apparently retreating age, as when Hall of Fame golfer and CBS commentator Nick Faldo said, ‘He looks darned good,’ and when leading golf intellectual Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press tweeted, ‘Tiger is a year older and looks five years younger than last year.’”
The intellectuals’ comments clearly exhibit that Tiger, 42, is defying his age a bit. Without a doubt, the game may never come as effortlessly as it once did. The sheer fact that Woods described this experience as a “grind” earlier proves that theory very much so. Nonetheless, his most recent effort reveals that if he can tighten some loose bolts, 2018 could be a fine year for Big Cat.
It goes beyond the numbers and the potential that was seen. In lieu of that, what is scary for the competition is that Woods is not feeling any degree of pain at this stage. Let alone not being bombarded by physical pain, mental pain from the past seems to not be impairing him, either. Thus, words like scary may not be cutting it. The once elite golfer is gradually looking like his old self.
This leads Golf Digest writer John Feinstein to believe that there is reason to be hopeful that Woods’ professional career is on the right track again.
“We know now that Woods can play competitive golf on four consecutive days without a 911 call. We know he still remembers how to score. Still, where comeback XVIII will lead, no one—including Woods—really knows.”
That being said, it is essential to ease expectations. This is not even close to the man that we got accustomed to seeing a decade ago and prior.
On the flip side of the coin, to hear that he is “pleased” is a good sign for sure. While a squirt or two of WD-40 is in order, Woods’ performance at Torrey Pines says quite a lot about his current status. He is definitely feeling not too shabby and his energy is not on “E” yet.