Sunday 17 December 2017

Tiger must abandon all hope of hitting it as far as McIlroy

Tiger Woods is driven off the course after withdrawing from the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego. Photo: AP Photo/Gregory Bull
Tiger Woods is driven off the course after withdrawing from the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego. Photo: AP Photo/Gregory Bull

Karl MacGinty

The loud and sobering message for Tiger Woods after lower back trouble forced him to pick up his ball and shuffle out of the Farmers Insurance Open is that he can no longer wield the awesome power which helped make him famous.

The time bomb many long believed would eventually bring him down started ticking once again during his first round at Torrey Pines.

After just 11 holes, during which FedEx Cup-winner Billy Horschel felt moved to pick up his ailing colleague's tee a couple of times and once even fished his ball out of the hole, Tiger's back seized so badly, he surrendered on the green at the par-three third.

Though hugely encouraged since his recovery from a discectomy last March by his ability to swing his club faster and hit the ball further than he did as a young man, Woods discovered that the consequences of doing so are greater than ever for his 39-year-old frame.

No longer can he hope to hit it out there with Rory McIlroy and golf's young lions.

Effectively, the world has seen the last of the rampant Tiger of old. In the view of expert observers, Woods now must turn down the throttle and rely more on nous and strategy than his phenomenal strength.

Before climbing into a sleek, black Porsche Panamera and heading for the airport, Tiger told the press pack that after he'd warmed up, a couple of fog delays, totalling two and a half hours, resulted in "my glutes just shutting off … then they don't activate, hence it (stiffness, one assumes) goes into my lower back."

Golf's heavyweight pundits, the likes of Nick Faldo, Brandel Chamblee, Pete Kostis and Tiger's best friend in golf, Notah Begay, were much clearer and painfully succinct in their analysis of his predicament.

Faldo told viewers that Tiger "has to find a way to swing a golf club, especially the driver, where it's not putting so much torque and tension into the spine. That is his absolute must."

Golf Channel guru Chamblee sounded a similar note: "It's one thing to have surgery to fix a problem but it's quite another if you don't take care of what's causing that problem."

"It begs some very, very serious questions in terms of how he's going to approach his golf game at this point," said Begay.

Of course, this latest recurrence of back issues further compounds problems for Tiger, whose short game still was wildly inconsistent on Thursday, which has shattered his confidence.


"It much be soul-destroying for him," Kostis surmised. "For him to be out here exposing all his weaknesses and flaws has got to be very difficult emotionally. Add this (aching back) to the equation and it's unbelievable."

It's unclear if Woods will be fit for the Honda Classic in a fortnight and his final chance to get back into the world's top-50 in time to play the Cadillac WGC at Doral. As for the Masters, which is just nine weeks away, never mind that aching back. The last place on earth Tiger needs to go with his short game in such a mess is Augusta National.

After holing from 43 feet and off the green for a splendid eagle three on his fourth hole, the 13th on the South Course, Padraig Harrington appeared ready yesterday to challenge for the lead.

Sadly, the Dubliner then imploded, making four straight bogeys from 14 before adding three more on the front nine, plus a double-bogey seven at six for a head-wrecking 79. On four-over, it was two out of two missed cuts for the Dubliner in 2015.

In contrast, Shane Lowry wrapped up his interrupted opening 74 on the South yesterday morning, and then carded a five-under-par 67 on the North Course to lie comfortably inside the projected cut on three-under, seven off the early pace set by Harris English (66).

Farmers Insurance Open, live, Sky Sports 4, 6.00pm

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