PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The 18th hole on the TPC Sawgrass is not nearly as daunting without wind, which was the case on a muggy Tuesday morning when Tiger Woods set up over the tee shot with a 3-wood in hand.
The ball never had a chance to stay dry.
It started down the left side with a severe hook and splashed down some 20 yards to the left of the water’s edge. With a mild curse under his breath, Woods asked his caddie for another ball.
It was his fifth ball in the water during nine holes of practice at The Players Championship.
He lost two in the water on the front nine the day before.
There have been flashes of brilliance, as always, but far more shots that hardly resemble golf from the world’s best player.
“It’s just a matter of … getting my mind where it needs to be,” Woods said. “And certainly, I’ve made a lot of adjustments in my life, and I’ve gone through a lot — a lot. Just trying to make sure I get everything organized so I can play.”
Woods is capable of making some form of history at just about any golf tournament, and The Players Championship is no exception. Only now, the question is whether Woods will miss the cut in consecutive tournaments for the first time in his career.
He didn’t just miss the cut last week at Quail Hollow, he missed it by a mile. With a 79 in the second round – his second-highest score in his career – Woods posted his highest 36-hole total (153) in 14 years on the PGA Tour.
Two days of practice this week did little to change the notion that his game – not to mention his head — is not in a good spot.
After three days of rampant speculation that he would ditch his swing coach, Woods said that nothing has changed with Hank Haney, who was not at Sawgrass. Haney rarely goes to tournaments outside the majors.
“I’m still working with him, yeah,” Woods said.
How did he tie for fourth at Augusta National in his first tournament in five months, then miss the cut by eight shots in his next start?
Woods has hit into the trees even during good times. The surprise was the mental mistakes he made, whether it was failing to leave a chip shot below the hole, or powering putts when he should know how fast the green is running.
Woods said it’s getting better, perhaps because “it couldn’t get any worse.”
Physical or mental?
“All of the above,” he said. “Didn’t hit the ball very good, didn’t think myself around the golf course very well, and didn’t putt well, didn’t chip well. I teed up the ball well. I didn’t have any balls fall off tees. It just kind of got worse from there.”
The Players Stadium Course is not much of a tonic.
While he won The Players Championship in 2001, this is the only tournament where Woods has finished out of the top 20 at least five times. A year ago, he was in the final group, five shots behind, and was out of hunt at the turn. He wound up eighth.