Tiger Woods 'stiff' in pro-am, casts some doubt over outlook for Northern Trust

Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com

Tiger Woods 'stiff' in pro-am, casts some doubt over outlook for Northern Trust

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods 'stiff' in pro-am, casts some doubt over outlook for Northern Trust

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Last season’s FedEx Cup playoffs were capped by a tournament that Walt Disney would have loved.

Tiger Woods held off Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose down the stretch to capture the Tour Championship, his first victory in five years. Images of fans following Woods down the 18th fairway on Sunday flooded social media and were on the front page of newspapers around the world.

But on Wednesday at Liberty National Golf Club, Woods did not play like that golfer. His post-round comments also cast a shadow of doubt over his outlook at both the Northern Trust and in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

After waiting through a 30-minute delay, Woods’ group was the first to tee off on the first hole of Wednesday’s pro-am at 7:30. Tiger hit a driver, then a wedge onto the green of the 370-yard hole. He hit a solid iron shot to the 208-yard second hole and then a 3-wood off the tee on the third.

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As he often does, Tiger ignored the holes, opting to chip and putt to white tees that his caddy, Joe LaCava, posited around the greens. As the amateurs played out the holes, Woods honed his short game, practiced lag putts and rolled balls over the massive swales and slopes.

Everything seemed normal until the group reached the eighth hole, when Woods opted not to walk back to the pro tees and instead, cut the corner and joined his group on a forward tee box. He did not tee off on that hole, but hit a series of chips and putts, and then repeated the same thing on the ninth hole.

Woods did not hit any full-swing shots over the last nine holes of his practice round. He taped a walking interview that will appear on CBS This Morning in Thursday, he talked with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on the 16th tee and he gave one pro-am partner a chipping lesson, but he didn’t hit his driver, fairway woods or irons. In truth, he didn’t hit a single shot on the 13th hole or the 15th hole.

“I was getting stiff, and it’s best to be smart about it,” he said afterward. “Just rest it, so I chipped and putted out there for nine holes.”

Woods played nine holes on Tuesday with Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Harold Varnor, and said he felt great. Wednesday morning, he didn’t and that’s the new normal for the 15-time major winner at age 43.

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“I’ve said to you guys all year, some days I’m stiffer than others,” he said. “Yesterday I was out there hitting it great, driving it out there with Brooksy and DJ, and today, I’m stiff.”

Perhaps it was an omen that while Woods chatted with his pro-am partners about 60 yards from the 12th green, a ball bounded in the middle of the fairway and came to rest about 15 yards to the right of Tiger. The TaylorMade marked with a 22 belonged to Rory McIlroy, who, playing behind Tiger’s group, had just hit a drive that went over 360 yards.

Tiger has only played in 10 PGA Tour events this season and four since his victory at Augusta National in April. He missed the cut at the PGA Championship and the British Open, tied for ninth at the Memorial and was T-21 at the U.S. Open.

Now the task that lies before him is to play three weeks in a row, which he has not done all season, with a back that is good one day and potentially stiff and problematic the next.

“Yes, there is concern,” he said bluntly while talking to the media.

Missing the cut at Liberty National would give Woods the weekend off to rest. He is starting the week at No. 28 on the FedEx Cup points list, so he will assuredly qualify for next week’s BMW Championship.

The worst thing that could happen now might be for Tiger to make the cut but fail to get into contention. At this point, he has to conserve energy.

“I’m trying to get myself to where I’m in contention, but it takes a toll on you, and that’s what I want to feel,” Woods said. “I want to feel that type of tiredness where I had a chance to win. That’s a good feeling.”

Lots of players and their families take in Broadway shows when there are tournaments in the New York City area. This week, the most intriguing drama seems to be taking place across the river in New Jersey.

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