Monday, January 28, 2013
SAN DIEGO — The Pacific air was so cold at the end of a 10-hour day at Torrey Pines that Tiger Woods thrust both hands in the front pockets of his rain pants as he walked off the course at the Farmers Insurance Open.
It was a fitting image. Woods made a marathon day look like he was out for a stroll.
Staked to a two-shot lead going into the third round of this fog-delayed tournament, Woods drove the ball where he was aiming and was hardly ever out of position. Even with a bogey on the final hole — the easiest on the back nine — Woods still had a 3-under 69 and expanded his lead by two shots.
In the seven holes he played in the fourth round later Sunday afternoon, Woods hit the ball all over the course and still made three birdies to add two more strokes to his lead.
Thanks to the fog that wiped out an entire day of golf on Saturday, the Farmers Insurance Open didn’t stand a chance of finishing on Sunday.
Woods just made it look like it was over.
He had a six-shot lead with 11 holes to play going into the conclusion of the final round today. The two guys chasing him were Brandt Snedeker, the defending champion, and Nick Watney, who won at Torrey Pines in 2008. Neither was waving a white flag. Both understood how much the odds were stacked against them.
“I’ve got a guy at the top of the leaderboard that doesn’t like giving up leads,” Snedeker said. “So I have to go catch him.”
“All we can do tomorrow is go out and try to make him think about it a little bit and see what happens,” Watney said.
And then there was Erik Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient who had a birdie-eagle finish in the third round that put him in third place through 54 holes, still five shots behind Woods. Someone asked Compton about trying to chase Woods. He laughed.
“I’m trying to chase myself,” he said.
Woods was at 17-under par for the tournament, and more than just a six-shot lead was in his corner.
He finished the third round at 14-under 202, making it the 16th time on the PGA Tour that he had at least a four-shot lead going into the final round. His record on the PGA Tour with the outright lead after 54 holes is 38-2, the exceptions being Ed Fiori in 1996 when Woods was a 20-year-old rookie and Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship.
Woods attributed his big lead to the “whole package.”
“I’ve driven the ball well, I’ve hit my irons well, and I’ve chipped and putted well,” he said. “Well, I’ve hit good putts. They all haven’t gone in.”
Woods has a good history of Monday finishes, starting with Torrey Pines. It was on this course along the coast north of La Jolla that Woods won a 19-hole playoff against Rocco Mediate to capture the 2008 U.S. Open for his 14th major.
He also won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on a Monday in 2000 when he rallied from seven shots behind with seven holes to play. He won his lone title in The Players Championship on a Monday, along with a five-shot win in the Memorial in 2000, and a scheduled Monday finish in the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston.
Woods even gets to sleep in.
A Monday finish because of weather typically resumes in the morning so players can get to the next tournament. CBS Sports, however, decided it wanted to televise the conclusion, and so play won’t begin until 2 p.m. EST. That decision might have been based on Woods being headed toward victory — just a hunch.
Woods already has won seven times at Torrey Pines, including the U.S. Open. That matches his PGA Tour record at Bay Hill and Firestone (Sam Snead won the Greensboro Open eight times, four each on a different course).
The tournament isn’t over, and Woods doesn’t see it that way.
“I’ve got to continue with executing my game plan. That’s the idea,” he said. “I’ve got 11 holes to play, and I’ve got to play them well.”
He seized control with his 69 in the third round that gave him a four-shot lead, and he might have put this away in the two hours he played before darkness stopped play.
He badly missed the first fairway to the left, but had a gap through the Torrey pines to the green and had a two-putt par. He missed his next shot so far to the left that the ball wound up in the first cut of the adjacent sixth fairway. He still managed a simple up-and-down for par.
After a 10-foot birdie on the par-3 third, Woods couldn’t afford to go left off the tee again because of the PGA Tour’s largest water hazard — the Pacific Ocean. So he went miles right, beyond a cart path, a tree blocking his way to the green. He hit a cut shot that came up safely short of the green, and then chipped in from 40 feet for birdie.
“I was able to play those holes in 2-under par,” Woods said. “And then I hit three great drives right in a row.”
One of them wasn’t that great — it was in the right rough, the ball so buried that from 214 yards that Woods hit a 5-wood. It scooted down the fairway and onto the green, setting up a two-putt birdie the stretched his lead to six shots. And after another good drive, the horn sounded to stop play. Because it was due to weather, Woods was able to finish the hole, and he two-putted for par.
Eleven holes on Monday were all that were keeping him from his 75th career win on the PGA Tour, and delivering a message to the rest of golf that there could be more of this to follow no matter what the golf course.