Maybe Woods needs to quit overcomplicating things. Maybe he should pick up a stick and swing it at a stone, like that 26-year-old Jhonattan Vegas, who learned the game by swiping at rocks with a broom handle, and who in the last two weeks won the Bob Hope Classic, and finished tied for third behind Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson at the Farmers Insurance Open. Vegas has dazzled the galleries with “the perfect balance and timing” of his swing, as the TV analysts raved, and he didn’t acquire it by obsessively studying digital frames of himself on the practice range, as Woods does.
Woods, meantime, played as poorly as he ever has — to the point that you have to wonder what he’s doing to himself by monkeying so much with his mechanics. After a winless 2010 amid a divorce, Woods announced he was ready to contend again thanks to an offseason of work under the tutelage of coach Sean Foley. But in fact, Woods looked like he had regressed. His weekend rounds of 74-75 to finish in a tie for 44th place were a competitive disaster on a course where he has won seven times and never been out of the top 10. He sprayed his drives, his iron shots wandered, he double dipped in bunkers, and three-putted.
There were several ominous numbers that suggest this won’t be the fast comeback he hoped for. He had never finished out of the top 10 in a stroke-play event to start a season. Ever. In the first three rounds at Torrey Pines, he hit just 16 of 42 fairways. He finished at just 1 under par for four rounds — on a course where he used to score 16 under or better. That’s how far off his old form he really is.
“I have some work to do,” Woods said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
But we thought Woods had been working. He spent months beating balls with Foley, videotaping his arcs and planes and release points. Before he teed off at Torrey Pines, he sounded optimistic.
“We’re excited about where my game has progressed over the offseason,” he said. Woods declared he had put “in the work. It takes thousands of balls, and I was able to do that.” As a result, he had recovered “my old keys and feels.”
Once the tournament started, however, it was a different story. After an encouraging opening round of 69, he steadily deteriorated. He bogeyed 12 of his last 44 holes, and by the end, he admitted, “I didn’t swing the club very well at all, didn’t feel comfortable.”