Farmers Insurance Open: Mastery Moments

The Farmers Insurance Open was finally completed on Monday at Torrey Pines. Monday because the weekend didn’t produce the usual La Jolla Chamber of Commerce weather for the tournament.

Saturday was lost to dense fog and Sunday was lost at sunset with temperatures that had dropped so sharply, Tiger Woods had his shoulders hunched and hands jammed into his rain pants for warmth. And his work was not done; playing in the last group with a six-shot lead, he still had eleven holes to play on Monday. 

Monday’s weather looked pretty good at the start of things, but then the wind came up and, with a weak, winter sun, the air grew cold and dense. The balls weren’t flying and running out as far.

It didn’t matter that much to Tiger; compared to Sunday’s play, he was pretty much slapping it around on Monday, but still managed to win by four shots. It began with a media photographer who snapped him just as he was ready to hit his tee shot on 9. He never really settled himself and blew his tee shot into one of the compounds right of the right treeline; right of right as they say in the vernacular.

But he got a drop, knocked a cutting 3-iron through a hole that looked like a thimble and managed to make his par anyway. He made his fourth birdie of his bifurcated round on 13 and that was the last of the highlight reel. At that point he had an eight shot lead.

But the pace of play was excruciatingly slow:

In the end I just started losing my patience.  It was so slow out there.  We played nine holes in just over three hours and three of them are par‑3s.  That’s not fast.  As I said, I had an 8‑shot lead.  So just needed to stay upright, and I was going to be fine.

And trust me, it was worse than that. Why the group in front of him didn’t get a taste of the whip from the officials, I don’t know. But they just couldn’t seem to keep up with the group in front of them.

And the distraction cause Tiger to lose his rhythm and his patience, going bogey, double bogey, par, bogey, par over the closing holes. It wasn’t pretty, but he won and he was happy:

Well, I drove the ball beautifully all week.  As I was explaining that 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‑5 in two, but you need to get up‑and‑down, and I did that this week.

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.

To him, the last five holes were an aberration of weather, slow play and his patience.

Brandt Snedeker, starting his round with an overnight birdie putt on 14, looked like he was missing putts all day long, and he was. They were just all birdie putts except for a bogey on 15. That was his only Monday blemish. He shot 3-under for the two days and finished T2:

I was a little disappointed with the way I finished today.  Just didn’t roll the ball the way I wanted to all week.  Had a good little stretch in my third round, being the fourth round, end of the third round.  But you’ve got to roll the ball really well around here, and I didn’t do a good job of that in the second round.  It’s a little frustrating because it’s normally something I think I can do well.

A lot of that was the poa annua greens, which as they grew out during the course of the day, one wag said, was like putting on broccoli.

Fourth year player, Josh Teater, managed a nifty 3-under and was the other side of the T2. For him, it was a transformational experience:

I mean, it was a good finish.  I didn’t play my best.  Usually I’m a good ball striker, good driver, and I didn’t really have that.  But I’ve been working hard on my short game and my putting, and that’s what kept me in it this week.

It was awesome to have a finish like this when you don’t really feel like you’re playing your best or maybe in the past I’ve put emphasis in other spots.  It just kind of opened my eyes to what I can continue working on.  This is my fourth year out here, so it’s no fluke that I belong.  It’s just taking the next step.

Nick Watney was another one who was expected to give Tiger a run for his money, but the stars weren’t lined up for him. The four birdies he stocked up on Sunday all drifted away until he added a fifth on 18 to shoot 1-under and finish a tidy T4. He was happy with his game:

It’s pretty good.  You know, today was a bit rocky.  I don’t know if it was the wind or whatever it was.  I think it’s pretty good.  I’m close to doing some good things, and I just want to get a little closer next time [and saying further that he is all primed for Phoenix].

As you would expect in any PGA Tour field, there were many other exemplary rounds and accomplishments during the week, but one that really stood out was Rickie Fowler.

He opened the tournament with a shocking 77 that put him in dead last place with two other guys. But that might be the last time anyone will write him off early in a tournament. He came back with rounds of 65, 70, 68 on a tough course in tough conditions to finish T6 and scoop up $204,350. From pauper to prince in a mere three days.

These kinds of masterful performances are what keep us coming back, God love ’em…and moving along to Phoenix.

I have media credentials for the week and I’m really looking forward to being in the middle of a big-time PGA Tour tournament again, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, “The Greatest Show on Grass!”

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