Feel-free Tiger angry after 77
Bob Sowards is a club professional from Ohio who’s played 27 holes of golf all year at his home course near Columbus.
“When I’m there I’m teaching or stocking balls or doing something productive. Sometimes I feel more like a range guy than a PGA professional,” the 43-year-old joked.
On Thursday, the “range guy” wiped the sweat from his brow — he’s not exactly a gym junkie and Atlanta Athletic Club felt like a sauna — and saw his name on the leaderboard at the 93rd PGA Championship, right below that of Tiger Woods.
He signaled to his buddy on the other side of the gallery ropes, who snapped a picture.
“Pretty cool, eh?” Sowards said.
Except that while Sowards stayed there, finishing at 1 under par for the day, Woods didn’t, playing his final 13 holes in a shocking 10 over par.
Sowards, who’s just trying to make the cut at a major for the first time, beat Tiger Woods, who’s won 14 majors, by eight shots.
“It’s always nice to beat the best player in the world but it’d be nice to beat him when he’s playing his best,” Sowards said.
It’s unlikely he’ll have that chance given Woods is much nearer rock-bottom than anything approaching his best.
Golf’s fallen champion turned in the second-worst performance of his professional career at a major, shooting a 7-over-par 77. He managed to tie John Daly and Jerry Pate. Jerry Pate! He’s 57 and won the US Open on this course in 1976, months after Woods was born.
The only time Woods scored higher was in foul weather at Muirfield in 2002 when he shot 81 and then famously declared that he tried on every shot.
He tried on Thursday, too.
Tried to hold in his anger.
“I’m not down,” an obviously agitated Woods said after his round, “I’m really angry right now.”
“There’s a lot of words I could use beyond that.”
How did the round turn so pear-shaped?
“I was 3 under early and every shot I hit up to that point, (his swing thoughts) were all mechanical thoughts,” he said.
“I put the club in a certain position, and I was doing that and I just said, ‘You know what, I’m feeling good, let’s just let it go.’
“I thought I was playing well enough (to) . . . go out there and let it go and just play by feel and see the shot, hit the shot, feel it.
“I’m not at the point yet.”
Woods said his old “motor pattern,” what he calls the “wipey swing” he’d developed toward the end of his time with instructor Hank Haney, began creeping in to his swings.
“And I start fighting it, and I couldn’t get it back,” he said.
“And it cost me the whole round.”
Woods lost his swing, and his confidence, on the 256-yard par-3 15th, his sixth hole of the day.
“It was a 4-iron and I was going to hit to the front edge or maybe short of the green,” he said.
“Aimed too far right and it didn’t move.”
He rinsed his tee shot and made double bogey, one of three doubles in the round. Only once before in his career has he had three double bogeys in a round.
Afterwards he complained again about hitting the ball too straight; he’s used to shaping shots and they don’t shape, though there were some misses — especially off the tee — that seemed awfully “shaped.”
“That’s what’s frustrating because I’m in a major championship — it’s time to score, time to play and time to let it go,” he said.
But the more he tried to let it go, the more it went . . . left, right, short, long, in the bunkers — especially in the bunkers — and in the water; anywhere but the fairways and greens.
Woods has missed two cuts at majors in his professional career, once at the US Open in the weeks after his father died in 2006 and in 2009, when the winds howled at Turnberry and Woods lost his swing for an hour and couldn’t recover.
He’ll need a very low second round — something in the mid-60s — just to make this cut.
If he doesn’t, it’s probably the last time we’ll see Woods until November, when Woods is scheduled to play in China and then Australia.
He needs a top-15 finish here in order to safely make his way into the first of the FedEx Cup playoff events, in two weeks in New Jersey.
But that seemed a bridge too far on Thursday afternoon as he headed to the range to attempt to solve the unknowable mystery that golf has become for a man who’d mastered it all his life.
“It’s going to be a lot,” he said about what he would work on. “It’s a laundry list.”
Sowards, meanwhile, knows how cruel golf can be and empathized with Woods. I asked him what he thought Woods needed.
“He’s played the best golf that anybody has ever played before,” he said. “I think he should just stop thinking so much.”
But maybe that’s the problem, the one he’s suffered from since his life was consumed by a sex scandal: He can’t stop thinking.