Tiger tension mounts after failing to tame Torrey Pines
TIGER WOODS is on a hiding to nothing at Torrey Pines this weekend.
Even if he manages somehow to rebound from a sterile and frustrating opening 36 holes at the Farmer's Insurance Open to register a record ninth tournament win in La Jolla tomorrow, many still might shrug and say "so what?"
Though his five victories in the US in 2013 were accorded proper recognition by Tiger's colleagues on the PGA Tour when they voted him their 'Player of the Year', the general public and, one suspects, Woods himself, measure the world No 1 on his performance at the Majors.
It's unfair that his stunning tally of 79 US Tour wins in 17 years should be so demeaned but Tiger long ago set this punishing agenda for himself by revealing his lifelong quest to beat the record 18 Majors won by Jack Nicklaus.
Woods, whose body clock ticked past 38 on December 30, failed utterly to stir memories of the most recent of his 14 Major successes on the renowned South Course here with Thursday's even-par 72. Instead, by failing to break par for the first time in the opening round at San Diego's annual tour stop, Tiger merely reminded us how much time has passed since his awe-inspiring victory at the 2008 US Open ... and how much attrition he's endured, mental as well as physical, since.
Wallowing 63rd overnight after his opening 72, Woods appeared increasingly tight, frustrated and tense yesterday as he compiled a one-under-par 71 on the North Course, which is playing at least four strokes easier than the South.
Tiger's playing companion Jordan Spieth certainly showed up the defending champion as he purred to a comfortable and composed second-round 63.
This splendid effort, reminiscent of the young Woods, propelled the 2013 US 'Rookie of the Year' into the clubhouse lead on 10-under-par. Not bad when one considers Spieth missed the cut on his PGA Tour debut here last year.
While Tiger ambled to facile birdies at 10, his first hole, and then 15 yesterday, he abjectly failed for the second day in succession to gain any ground or momentum on the par fives.
Thursday was the first time in 52 rounds at Torrey Pines that Tiger didn't make at least one birdie on a par five and he responded by saying: "I didn't play them worth a damn."
Well his effort on the long holes on the North Course yesterday was worth even less. After pars at the long 14th, 18th and first holes, he then stumbled to an untidy bogey six at the ninth, his last. The expletive which burst from his lips as he pulled his 10-foot birdie attempt at one past the hole illustrated the tension already mounting within Woods in his first tournament of the year.
Is pressure already beginning to wear on the ageing Tiger?
Woods certainly won't make any concessions to the advancing years, citing his friend and role model Michael Jordan as an example of an athlete who successfully adapted his game as he aged.
"You're still able to be successful, but you do it a different way," Woods said earlier this week. "You evolve as you age, and I think I've done that so far."
Tiger's certainly not prepared to give up on his pursuit of the Golden Bear and has spoken often about how he feels he can be competitive well into his 40s.
But seeing him for the second day in succession trying to force the issue at Torrey Pines, where he really should be in the comfort zone, one wondered if Tiger's time is as short as his temper.
Elsewhere, Steve Webster went into today's final round of the Qatar Masters tied for the lead on 12-under par with Rafael Cabrera Bello after the Spaniard stalled with a one-over-par 73 in blustery conditions at Doha Golf Club yesterday.
Webster, who opened his tournament with an albatross two at the par five 10th on Wednesday, was two-over through five holes of his third round but the Englishman still ground-out a gutsy 70.
Sadly, Michael Hoey and Simon Thornton slipped back into a tie for 39th and out of contention on four-under after both shot 74 yesterday. Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley rebounded with two birdies on the back nine for a 72 which left him in 57th on one-under.
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