SAN DIEGO – Through 63 holes, Tiger Woods looked out of place and out of sorts during his 2019 debut while prowling some of his favorite stomping grounds in the golf world.
At his beloved Torrey Pines Golf Course overlooking the Pacific, Woods failed to ignite at his annual launching pad that is the Farmers Insurance Open, a tournament he’s owned to the tune of a record seven titles.
While Mother Nature dialed up perfection each round, Woods remained in a fog. He didn’t even wear his familiar red Sunday, the color scheme of stripes screaming pink more than any type of red you could envision.
Still, with no shot at winning, Woods played a game within the game on the final day. Instead of packing it in and counting down the minutes until he got to his private jet and headed to his Florida compound, he set a goal to stalk – he wanted to finish double digits under par.
And during an otherwise indifferent week marred by frustration with his putter, Woods delivered over his final nine holes and left with a bit of hop in his step.
With birdies on five of his last eight holes – including the final two – Woods looked like he did in winning the season-ending Tour Championship, his first victory since 2013. The outburst of red numbers got him to 10 under for the tournament and provides something to seize upon heading into his next start.
“Got to have these little goals when I’m not in contention to win a tournament, but still something positive to end the weekend and the week on,” Woods said after firing rounds of 70-70-71-67 to tie for 20th. “Figured a few things out as the week was going along. I just felt like I got better each day. I got cleaner, my rounds got cleaner and that’s what I want to have happen.”
World No. 1 Justin Rose, who tied the 36- and 54-hole scoring records, held off Adam Scott to win his 10th title on the PGA Tour. With rounds of 63-66-69-69, he finished at 21 under and two clear of Scott, who finished with four consecutive birdies. Rose, the reigning FedExCup champion, has 13 top-10 finishes in his last 17 worldwide starts.
After not playing in seven weeks, Woods didn’t make anything happen until late on Sunday. From the outset of Thursday’s opening 18 holes, Woods couldn’t wrap his giant paws around anything remotely close to momentum. He bemoaned his work on the greens, where one good putt after another failed to disappear. His work with the upgraded version of his TaylorMade P7TW irons was substandard and led him to admit that he felt “a little off” in that area, saying he wasn’t “as clean as I like” through impact.
All in all, the lion’s share of the week had a Groundhog Day feel to it, with Woods waking up with an icy putter and chilly irons and feeling disappointed walking off most every green. He was eight shots out of the lead the first round, 11 back after the second, 13 after the third. Not having a chance to win hardware dulled his spirit, especially when well-struck putts continued to skim the edges of the cup. But Woods dug in and was pleased that his new driver, the latest model from TaylorMade, worked well.
“It’s nice to see that finish the last nine holes, especially when he couldn’t get anything going the rest of the week, mostly because of the putter,” said Joe LaCava, Woods’ caddie. “Every part of his game is close, and every part of his game needs a little bit of work. I saw progress every day.”
So, too, did Woods, who makes his next start Feb. 14 in the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club north of Los Angeles. He’ll tinker here and there, just as he did last year when he built up his body and game after returning from spinal fusion surgery. He doesn’t have any health issues now and will get back to work shortly after getting back to the Sunshine State.
“I didn’t quite start out the way I wanted to this week, wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be, but each day it got a little better,” Woods said. “If you look at where I was Thursday and look at where I’m at now, Sunday, I got a little bit better. I started to get the feel back for hitting the golf ball under tournament speed. I drove the ball better, hit my irons a little bit cleaner. I hit good putts, some didn’t go in, some did.
“I have a little bit of work to do the next couple weeks for L.A. I’ll be ready in a couple weeks.”