DiMeglio: Tiger listless after failing to capitalize, but no need to worry

SAN DEIGO, CA - JANUARY 25: Tiger Woods watches play on the tenth hole during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines North on January 25, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR) Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

DiMeglio: Tiger listless after failing to capitalize, but no need to worry

PGA Tour

DiMeglio: Tiger listless after failing to capitalize, but no need to worry

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SAN DIEGO – For the better part of two rounds spread over the first two days of the Farmers Insurance Open, Tiger Woods has been a lion in winter.

Instead of thundering into the new year at Torrey Pines Golf Course, he’s lumbered over some of his favorite stomping grounds on the planet, the scenic prime real estate facing the Pacific where he’s stalked his way to eight victories. The familiarity has done little to awaken him, nor has his execution with golf club in hand through 36 holes.

He looks fine and said he feels strong and fresh, but failing to capitalize on one good opportunity after another has left him little chance to seize momentum and left him listless. A short birdie putt missed here, another short birdie putt missed there. One lip out after another. A short iron gone astray, a drivable par-4 he failed to take advantage of. It has taken a toll.

As for the roars from the substantial galleries in step with the most famous golfer in the world? They’ve been as silent as the gentle waves heading to the shores, his pair of 70s igniting little noise and leaving him too far behind the leaders.

Yes, the cliché would be to say he’s knocking off some rust after not playing for seven weeks, but that should have only been the case through his first round. And Woods himself expected more of himself, especially at Torrey Pines.

“I felt a little bit off at times here and there,” Woods said of his second round. “I squeezed a couple (drivers) off the tees just to get it in play and ripped a few here and there and hit a couple good bombs down there.

“Iron shots weren’t as close as I’d like to have them, wasn’t quite as sharp as I’d like to be, but I hit them in there close enough where I should have made some of those putts. They lip in instead of lipping out, the ballgame changes a little bit. I’m hitting good putts. If I just continue hitting good putts, eventually they’ll go in in boatloads. Just right now they’re just not going in.”

That was the case on the 11th hole Friday on the North Course. Under the gun a tad after a 70 on the South Course on Thursday left him eight shots behind the leader and on the projected cutline, Woods got off to the start he wanted with a birdie on the 10th, when he reached the par-5 in two and took two putts for his four. But then he missed a good opportunity from inside 8 feet on the short 11th hole, and momentum disappeared. Another good chance failed to drop on the 13th, and then on the second hole. Both good putts that just didn’t fall.

But he had little explanation for what happened on the 18th, where he wound up making double-bogey 6 after standing in the middle of the fairway with an 8-iron in his hand, his approach plugging under the lip of a bunker instead of finding the green.

Woods’ frustration reached its peak when he poorly finished off his round. He failed to birdie the par-5 5th despite having just a 4-iron in his hand for his second. Up to then, he had devoured the par-5s with six birdies in six chances. Then he failed to birdie the par-5 18th. And he drove over the drivable par-4 7th but failed to get up-and-down from the back bunker for birdie.

Three tasty chances, three sour outcomes.

Despite his lackluster play through 36 holes, there’s nothing to be alarmed about. Woods certainly isn’t. His swing is sound, his putting stroke just fine. Sometimes the putts just don’t go in and mistakes here and there are compounded.

Last year, when he returned to the game following spinal fusion surgery, he spent the campaign tinkering with his swing, his workouts, his equipment. In the end, he figured it out as he won the season-ending Tour Championship, his first victory since 2013 and the 80th of his career.

He’ll start looking for answers the final two rounds, holding out hope that he’ll have a chance to chase down the leaders despite facing a double-digit deficit.

“I’m going to have to play a very special weekend to have a chance,” he said. “I’ll just keep working, keep trying, keep hitting good putts.”

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