Golf

Tiger needs reps, not rest

Round 2 was full of drama, especially for Tiger Woods, Robert Lusetich says.
Round 2 was full of drama, especially for Tiger Woods, Robert Lusetich says.
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Robert Lusetich

After more than 20 years of covering everything from election campaigns to the Olympic Games, Robert Lusetich turned his focus to writing about his first love: golf. He is author of Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger's Most Tumultuous Season. Follow him on Twitter.

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JOHNS CREEK, GA.

Tiger Woods has hit rock bottom.

He needed to shoot 68 on Friday at Atlanta Athletic Club to avoid missing the cut for the first time at a PGA Championship.

He never had a chance.

Woods turned in a 73 to follow his nightmarish opening 77 and waved goodbye to golf till mid-November, when he’ll play in Australia.

This latest setback means he’ll miss the four-tournament FedEx Cup playoffs and won’t qualify for the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai in the first week of November.

Instead his agent told me Woods will be making “corporate appearances in Asia” during that week before going to the Australian Open where it’s reported he’ll be paired with Adam Scott — and his old caddie, Steve Williams — for the first two rounds.

Mischievous, those Aussies.

Between now and then Woods will be dealing with an enforced layoff he doesn’t need because, as he reminds us, he “needs reps” — needs to get back to flow of playing regularly — after all the time missed this year with injury.

But maybe he does need time away.

Time to find the champion he used to be … if he can.

Because watching the greatest player of his generation - if not of all time - duff it around in a major he’s won four times makes for sad viewing.

“Now I’ll have nothing to do but work on my game,” Woods said after his worst finish as a professional in a major.

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There’s both a lot of work to do and no guarantee that continuing down the path he’s on will get him to where he wants to go.

Woods has been working with Sean Foley for a year on a new swing that, frankly, malfunctions under pressure.

If there’s trouble on the left side of holes — as there is at Atlanta Athletic Club — then Woods, who’s grown scared of the hook, doesn’t trust his swing and dumps tee shots to the right, which is where Rees Jones put all the bunkers here.

“I think I was in nearly, what, 20 bunkers, in two days and had four or five water balls. So that’s not going to add up to a very good score,” Woods said.

He was actually in 22 bunkers, 11 off the tee and 11 greenside bunkers. He hit only one more fairway than he did fairway bunkers. To boot, his sand game — once one of the best in the world — has so devolved that Woods saved par only four times from those 11 greenside traps.

What Woods and Foley need to find out — and fast — is whether the cause of all these malfunctions is the swing or if it’s Woods himself.

He played well in places, making eight birdies for the two days, which tied him for tenth in the field.

“I showed signs that I can hit the ball exactly how I know I can. Unfortunately, I just didn’t do it enough times,” he said.

But if he can’t answer the bell when the tournament begins, or can’t sustain the play, then maybe the rabbit hole goes deeper than swing planes and spine angles.

Woods doesn’t think the answer is dumping Foley, but neither does he seem particularly interested in looking inside himself.

Instead, he thinks that developing a “go-to shot” and hard work will get him back to the top.

“Sean and I haven’t had the opportunity to really sit down and do a lot of work, so this will be our time,” he said of the coming weeks.

“He’s going to have a child here soon, so he’s going to be at home. He’s not going to be traveling much and I’ll be down at (his new $55 million home) in Jupiter, so we’ll be able to do some work.”

As is his wont, Woods dug for nuggets of gold from the mud and slop of this major.

“It’s a step back in the sense that I didn’t make the cut and I’m not contending in the tournament, but it’s a giant leap forward in the fact that I played two straight weeks, healthy,” he said.

“That’s great for our practice sessions coming up. We’re going to be able to work and get after it.”

He said he thought he could “come in here and play the last couple of weeks and get it done somehow, but I need some work.”

“This year has been frustrating, because I was feeling somewhat healthy going into the Masters, and put it together there and was leading the tournament with a few holes to go, and then obviously got hurt,” he said.

“And I haven’t played since, really, so it’s been frustrating. I’ve missed two major championships and missed the cut in the other one.

“So just need to go out and do my work.”

And hope that will be enough.

Tagged: Tiger Woods

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