It was not pretty. It was exciting in a nail-biting, what’s-he-going-to-do-to-himself-next kind of experience. But it was victory No. 75 on the PGA Tour.
Yet after carving out an eight-shot lead over his nearest competitor, Tiger Woods started to struggle.
“I hit the ball well. Pretty much did everything well this week, and built myself a nice little cushion,” he said. “I had some mistakes at the end. But all my good play before that really allowed me to afford those mistakes.”
Realistically, if there’s something lower than winning with a C-game, Woods did it on Monday at Torrey Pines (make up your own grade; I’m not going there). He made two bogeys and a double, losing three shots over the last nine holes. He won with what was probably his highest final nine-hole score for a victory ever. Just a guess. No stats. He posted a final nine-hole score of 39.
The winds were gusting at nearly 20 MPH, and Woods and his playing companions were waiting on every shot due to excruciatingly slow play by the group ahead of him.
“In the end, I just started losing my patience. It was so slow out there,” Woods said. “We played nine holes in just over three hours and three of them are par threes. That's not fast. As I said, I had an eight‑shot lead. So just needed to stay upright, and I was going to be fine.”
He credited his improved short game as an overall key to victory.
“My short game has been coming around. It came around at the end of last season, and you're not going to hit every par five in two, but you need to get up‑and‑down, and I did that this week,” he added. “My short game was back to how I know it can be. My shots that I hit, especially out of these nasty little lies, I hit some really good ones this week. And that allowed me to save some pars, save some birdies, and move my way up the board, and basically that's what I did.”
He said that, except for the last five holes, he played very well.
“I felt like I should have won this tournament,” he said about his performance. “I put myself in a position where I had a big enough lead, and that's basically how I felt like I played this week. I played that way. I know I can do that, and it was nice to be able to do it.”
Still, as poorly has he scored toward the end, he won by four shots over Brandt Snedeker and Josh Teater.
Snedeker explained how he is pleased with his game at this point in the season.
“I did a lot of good stuff this week, and I am going to try to take that into next week in Phoenix,” he said. “I drove the ball really well and didn’t putt as well as I wanted to. Everything else was pretty sharp. So I’m excited about what the next couple weeks hold for me."
Snedeker had only four holes left to play on Monday and with Woods having a large lead at the beginning of the Monday round, it was nearly impossible for him to catch Woods unless he birdied every hole.
“It was a tough deal to start the round,” Snedeker said. “Course was completely different. The greens, completely different. So that was tough to get readjusted.”
Snedeker finished with a final-round 69 over the two days.
Though his short game was significantly better, Woods' drives were still an issue.
Sunday he didn’t hit a final-round fairway until the fifth hole. Monday, he started at the ninth and finally found a fairway on the 12th. Before that, he’d been in a fairway bunker and a greenside bunker. Then things got bad.
On the 14th, he slid one out right into the rough, hit an approach that landed short and left the chip too short to be a sure par. It was a sure bogey instead.
The next hole was a disaster. Off the tee, Woods was left into ice plant. If you have never seen ice plant, think of an aloe vera plant. Soft, juicy, filled with watery stuff and really slippery. It’s worse than hitting into a wet sponge because at least a sponge springs back. Ice plant is like hitting out of slime with loose skin.
The good news is that Woods was so far left that he was in a lateral hazard, so he did not have to hit out of the ice plant. Unfortunately, after the drop, he doubled the hole. His lead was dwindling. Someone suggested that Brandt Snedeker should not leave the golf course quite yet because of the way Woods was playing. They may not have been joking the way things were going.
The 17th proved to be another challenge in either club selection or execution. He either topped or fatted a fairway wood off the tee, left his second shot short of the green, again, and followed with a mediocre chip. Bogey. Now, for the rest of us, it would be great golf. But for Tiger Woods, formerly Superman of the links, this is pretty ragged stuff.
When it was over, he still got the W. “I would like to win eight, nine times a year. That's not a bad thing,” he concluded.
Kathy Bissell is a golf writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.