A Super Bowl weekend at a golf tournament without Tiger

Published 5:00 pm Sunday, February 1, 2015


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Three previous trips were enough for Tiger Woods to leave quite an impression at the Phoenix Open. The hole-in-one on the most raucous hole in golf. Fans moving a half-ton boulder. A kid tossing an orange onto the green when he was putting.

The most recent memory might have topped them all.

He shot 82.

Five hours Friday that were a blend of sadness and shock produced his highest score ever.

“We all have days like this,” Woods said after a day he had never experienced in nearly two decades as a pro.

He flubbed one chip about 5 feet. He tried to hit a flop shot 35 feet from the pin and hit it 47 yards into a bunker. He hit one bunker shot woefully short. Another sailed over the green and nearly into the water. He made two double bogeys and a triple bogey.

He had no answers for a game that never looked to be in more disarray.

Did he feel lost?

Woods quickly reverted to a familiar explanation that he was caught between swings — the steep version from Sean Foley and a more shallow swing under Chris Como, with whom he just began working two months ago.

He missed the cut by 12 shots with his highest 36-hole score at 155. He missed back-to-back cuts on the PGA Tour for the first time in his career, though it should be noted that those two tournaments were six months apart.

Nothing summed up his week like the message from the fans.

“Welcome back!” they yelled at him Thursday. It was his first time in the Phoenix Open in 14 years.

“Thanks for coming!” they shouted him to Friday after Woods trudged off the ninth green.

The only record-keeping left for Woods Saturday morning was whether he would finish last for the first time in his career. He was at 13-over 155 when play was suspended by darkness. Of the 15 players still to finish, one of them was at 12-over par with two holes to play. That was Michael Hopper, a club pro in Arizona.

Not everything goes according to script when the Super Bowl is in town.

The plan was for a record crowd in the Phoenix Open for Saturday, the biggest and loudest day of the most rowdy event on the PGA Tour. Woods was back at the TPC Scottsdale for the first time since 2001. He planned to go to the Super Bowl when the tournament ended on Sunday.

Except that Woods won’t be around for the weekend, and it wasn’t even close.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, Phil Mickelson won’t be around either. He shot a 76 on Friday and missed the cut by two shots. The two biggest names in golf decided to go home — Woods to Florida, Mickelson to San Diego.

Both are playing at Torrey Pines next week.

“Hopefully, we will be able to get it turned around for next week,” Mickelson said.

For star power, the Waste Management Phoenix Open is lacking. For golf fans, it might be a chance to see the future of golf.

Martin Laird ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch when the rain finally subsided, and not even his first bogey of the tournament on his last hole of the second round could dampen his spirits. He had another 5-under 66 and was at 10-under 132, two shots ahead of Daniel Berger.

More intriguing was the peach fuzz behind him.

Berger is 21, the son of an Olympic tennis coach, a rookie on the PGA Tour who received a sponsor’s exemption. A big hitter — most kids are, these days — he birdied his last two holes for a 69.

Another shot back is Justin Thomas. He is 21, the son of a club pro in Kentucky, a rookie who also got an exemption. Only a week ago, Thomas was in position to win the Humana Challenge until he drove an iron into a fairway bunker, hit the next shot in the water and made double bogey on the 16th hole.

Skip past a trio of Masters champions — Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson and Angel Cabrera — and former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy to find yet another 21-year-old. This one has some star power. Jordan Spieth already is in his third year, has three wins worldwide and is No. 9 in the world ranking.

Berger, Thomas and Spieth are proudly past of the class of 2011 — that’s high school, not college.

“Our graduating class, 2011, has probably eight or nine tour players that will come out of it,” Spieth said. “There’s what? Three or four on the PGA Tour, another couple of the Web.com already? And we should still be in school. It’s cool to see peers we grew up with for a while all making the transition pretty easily.”