After grinding through Friday to make the cut on the number, Tiger Woods shot an even-par 72 in Sunday’s Farmers Insurance Open finale to complete his first 72 holes of an official, full-field PGA Tour event in almost three years.
The former world No. 1 did so despite missing a putt that would have given him his first birdie of the day when a blockhead fan yelled — you guessed it — “get in the hole” as Woods was making his follow-through on the 13th green.
It took just one more hole for Woods to put that birdie on the scorecard when he took out his anger on his golf ball and blasted a drive 323 yards down the middle of the fairway. A beautiful wedge shot from 116 yards left him a 12-foot putt that he drilled for a three on his fifth hole of the day after starting on No. 10 of Torrey Pines’ South Course.
It certainly wasn’t pretty at times during the week for Woods, who found just three of 14 fairways and nine of 18 greens on his way to scuffing out a 2-under 70 in Saturday’s third round.
In fact, Tiger termed his third round “gross.” But there were certainly flashes of a vintage Tiger, such as the birdie he made on the par-5 sixth hole on Saturday.
After dramatically making the cut on Friday with a two-putt birdie from way downtown, there was no doubting Woods’ ability to gut out rounds that could easily have gotten away from him, a sentiment Tiger shared after Saturday’s stint.
“All I had was my short game and my heart,” he said about what kept him at 3-under and within eight shots of 54-hole leader Alex Noren heading into Sunday’s finale.
Four rounds at par or better (72-71-70-72) put Woods nine shots off the lead, with the pacesetters still on the course.
Entering the final round tied for eighth in scrambling, Woods needed all that on Sunday, when he got up and down with a nine-foot par putt after missing the green on the par-3 11th and chipping out of heavy rough.
Though Woods flirted with getting inside the top 20 for much of the round on a warm but blustery day in San Diego, the woes with his driver that plagued him in the first three rounds continued on Sunday. While he missed some fairways by some 40 or 50 yards, much better iron play kept him in the game.
Golf Channel/CBS analyst Nick Faldo noted that Woods hit his approach shots to within 15 feet of the pin just eight times in the first three rounds. Through 15 holes on Sunday, he had already achieved such precision seven times, Faldo said.
Even the Big Cat’s big dog had its moments, and when he hit it flush and long, as he did to start his incoming nine, Tiger’s drives were reminiscent of the glory days.
Unfortunately, Woods’ driver let him down more often than not, like on the par-4 seventh when his errant tee shot traveled rightward, some 30 yards from the center of the fairway. He needed some more short-game wizardry after running a punch shot to the fringe of the green.
Alas, it was not to be, as Woods elected to putt from off the green and came up well short. A two-putt bogey ensued and he dropped to 3-under and outside the top 25. Another miss to the right with his driver off the ninth tee made it 17 of 56 fairways hit for the week, a stat not exactly conducive to a winning score.
Nevertheless, Tiger told CBS’ Dottie Pepper he was “very pleased” with how he played all week.
With Tiger threatening the first page of the leaderboard at times on Sunday, it was easy to forget that he was returning to competition for the first time since he shot a first-round 77 in Dubai last February and withdrew before day two. For sure, after four back surgeries since March 2014 and the T10 at the Wyndham Championship in Aug. 2015 in his last complete tournament, the most important outcome from Woods’ tour around Torrey: no back pain.
The next scheduled stop on the Tiger Woods Comeback Express is a date with a resurgent Rory McIlroy (T3 and runner-up finishes in his first two European Tour events of 2018) at the Genesis Open in two weeks. The Riviera tilt will mark the first time since the 2015 PGA Championship that the two superstars will tee it up in a tournament in the same week, so getcha popcorn