Tiger Woods makes progress, misses cut at Farmers

Tiger Woods makes progress, misses cut at Farmers

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods makes progress, misses cut at Farmers

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods’ game was better on Friday at the Farmers Insurance Open, but still not good enough. In making his first official PGA Tour start in 17 months, he had to do two things that he abhors at golf tournaments: One, pack for home on Friday; and two, depart without a trophy.

“It’s frustrating not being able to have a chance to win the tournament,” Woods said after a level-par 72 on the North Course left him at 4-over 148 for two days. “I didn’t make the cut. Overall, today was better than yesterday. I hit it better. I putted well again. I hit a lot of beautiful putts that didn’t go in, but I hit it much better today, which was nice. We fixed a few things while playing today, which was nice.”

But not nearly nice enough. Woods will have the weekend off in SoCal due to a sloppy four-hole stretch on the South Course on Thursday that he played in 5 over par. He went from 1 under through 11 holes to 4 over through 15, and on a course that yields very little in return, barring a low round in tough conditions Friday, he basically was done. 

He didn’t give himself enough chances early to get something going on the renovated North, which remains the easier of the two courses at Torrey. He made two birdies on par 5s to offset two bogeys on long par 3s. And as a result, he missed the cut for the first time in 16 starts at Torrey (he withdrew two years ago), giving himself extra time to turn his thoughts toward a start in Dubai next week. 

After leading an elite limited field in birdies (24) last month at the Hero World Challenge, his own unofficial event played at Albany in the Bahamas, Woods didn’t appear to be swinging and playing nearly as freely over two days along the Pacific Coast at chilly and windy Torrey Pines.

Every player, even the very best, get nervous. Did nerves hold him back? 

“I just don’t think he hit it very well,” Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, said of Thursday’s effort. “I don’t think it was nerves. He’d tell you that. But I think today was better, so he sees signs. More fairways, more solid shots. So hopefully we’ll get after it next week.”

Next week is Dubai, on a golf course Woods knows well, and once back on U.S. soil he has starts slated at Riviera (Genesis) and PGA National (Honda), two more demanding tracks. 

Physically, he said he felt a lot stronger this week at Torrey than he did a month ago in the Bahamas, where surely the island heat had to feel a little better on his back. He just didn’t get much to happen. And he wasn’t alone. All three players in the tournament’s marquee group – Woods, World No. 1 Jason Day and U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson – failed to make it to the weekend. Others missing the cut: U.S. Ryder Cup players Jimmy Walker, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka.

“I just feel like I’ve really made some nice strides with my game, but I haven’t tested it yet,” Woods said. “Granted, slashing it out of the rough all day yesterday was not exactly the best way to test.” 

Adds LaCava, “He was getting frustrated. I told him, it’s not going to come back overnight, even if you’ve been practicing, you know what I mean? You’ve got to stay the course, and stay patient. Let’s get more shots and more reps and more practice.”

And so they will. The Great Tiger Experiment, Chapter 2, is in the books, and it did not seem nearly as promising as the debut last month in the Bahamas, where there were many more flashes of brilliance sprinkled in among the expected mental errors that a rusty competitor is sure to endure. If there’s one thing Woods showed at Torrey, it’s that he has lost little of his will to fight as he tries to post a score. 

Bigger picture, this all is window dressing, really, as Woods has but one real start in site: April’s Masters at Augusta National, where he has won four times.

“It’s trying to get everything coming together at the right time,” he said. “What we’re all as players trying to do is put it together four times a year; that’s the challenge.”

Woods pointed toward the current Australian Open, the opening leg of the tennis Grand Slam, which will put two of his friends (and veteran players), Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Add in the women’s final (sisters Serena and Venus Williams facing off) and it is not lost on Woods that all four have weathered career lows, returned from injuries, and have battled their ways back to return to a final in one of their sport’s premier tournaments. 

“Old times,” Woods calls it with appreciation. It’s something he hopes to revisit himself one day soon. 

With that, he was bound for Dubai. 

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