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Golf Tidbits: Victory portends big things for Woods

1:49 PM, Jan 29, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The cynics will say "You can't win majors with those driving problems," but Tiger Woods did more than enough over the first 63 holes to earn his eighth victory at Torrey Pines.

The bad driving on the back nine had to do with one thing, and one thing only, at the Farmers Insurance Open: slow play. After Saturday's play was fogged out, the completion of the final round was pushed into Monday.

And the final 11 holes for Woods took 3 hours, 45 minutes. Brutal! More on that later, though.

Woods fought off sloppy play on the back nine to win by four strokes. That rough stretch, where he dropped four strokes in a four-hole span, did nothing more than cut his eight-stroke lead in half.

It did ensure one other odd fact. In his seven wins at the Farmers Insurance Open, Woods has never put together four rounds in the 60s.

The win could set up a big year for Woods. In five of the previous six seasons Woods has won this title, he has gone on to win at least one major. In fact, in those five years - 1999, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 - Woods has won seven majors.

The 2008 U.S. Open victory, also at Torrey Pines, was his last major.

Woods also has averaged over six wins per season in the previous six years in which he won at Torrey.

Going against the grain of those statistics is the set-up of this year's majors. It isn't 2010 with Pebble Beach and St. Andrews on the schedule, two courses in which Woods often fares well.

After Augusta for The Masters, the major championships are at Merion Golf Club, Muirfield (Scotland, not Ohio) and Oak Hill Country Club.

Woods doesn't have much of a track record at those three venues. He has never played Merion in competition. His lone appearance at Muirfield for the British Open was in 2002, when he tied for 28th, six strokes off the pace.

Finally, the PGA Championship is headed for Oak Hill, where Woods shared 39th place in 2003, a mere 16 shots behind the winner.

Those numbers don't necessarily bode well for Woods, but neither Merion nor Oak Hill are bombers courses. Merion will play about 7,000 yards, while Oak Hill will measure a little over 7,100 yards.

Those two set up perfectly for Woods and his stinger 3-wood tee shot, or even a hard 3-iron off the tee.

The driver seems to be Woods' downfall in recent years, but if he isn't going to need it as often, he'll be better off.

Everyone loves to ask, "Is Tiger back?" This was his fourth win since his 2009 Thanksgiving incident, which led to his divorce. Does that make him back? No, it doesn't.

Tiger will be "back" when he earns his 15th major championship, which is very likely to come this year if his win on Monday is any indication.

SLOW MONDAY AT TORREY

Fog halted all but 10 minutes of play on Saturday at Torrey Pines, which meant there was going to be Monday finish.

Officials announced there would be no re-pairing after the third round, and no secondary cut. Good news, bad news right there.

No re-pairing saved plenty of time as the lead groups had actually finished nine holes of the final round before the final group even got to the first tee for their final round.

However, 87 players made the cut and since there was no secondary cut to the closest number to 70 after Round 3, that led to bad things on Monday.

When play was called for darkness on Sunday, players had the option to finish the hole they were on. That led to several groups hanging out on tee boxes waiting for the hole in front of them to clear out.

There was no one group causing the delay as the lead groups finished 15 holes and the last group got through seven holes of the final round on Sunday.

The logjam never broke on Monday. Combining the time it took to play Sunday and Monday afternoon, Tiger Woods' group needed five hours to play 16 holes. And those last two holes were at least another 30 minutes to finish.

In the time Woods waited on the last two holes, he could have jogged four or five miles for part of his daily workout. No wonder he started hitting the ball all over the map. It's impossible to keep your swing grooved with that much waiting.

Again there wasn't one group taking a lot of time, but the group immediately in front of Woods' threesome -- Brad Fritsch, Erik Compton and Steve Marino -- needed officials to help with drops on the last two holes, and did end a full hole behind the group ahead of them.

Compton needed officials' help on No. 18 because he drove into a vendors tent. After the ruling and his free drop, he then took a look at what his shot was going to be and figured out his yardage. Why he didn't do that while waiting for the ruling is beyond me.

The fact there were 86 players on Monday (Adam Hadwin withdrew prior to Monday's play) was the biggest issue. Players really need to get penalized strokes for slow play.

Officials should first penalize themselves for letting 87 players start the final round. Then, they need to start handing out stroke penalties to slow players. The LPGA did it last year.

The last time a PGA Tour player was given a stroke penalty for slow play happened in the 1990s!

Get with it, fellas, or you'll lose fans.

MINI-TIDBITS

* While it was a good week for Woods at Torrey Pines, three-time winner Phil Mickelson failed to break 70 en route to a share of 51st place. Mickelson seems to feel he is just a little off. Maybe he'll find that something in Phoenix this week, where he has won twice and has nine top-10 finishes.

* No one can accuse Rickie Fowler of mailing it in after his performance at Torrey Pines. Fowler shot 77 in the opening round and was tied for last place. He rallied with a 65 in Round 2 to make the cut on the number, then went 6-under par over the final two rounds to earn a share of sixth place. Players have won after making the cut on the number, but not many rally from last place after Round 1 for a top-10 finish.

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