While the rest were sweating out the Santa Ana winds that turned the Farmers Insurance into some convoluted sort of U.S. Open, Tiger Woods was heading home.
Somewhere at 25,000 or 30,000 feet, Woods was resting comfortably while his $54 million Gulfstream G550 was jetting due east toward Florida.
The final round took so long for the lead group — a mind-boggling six hours — that Woods was probably resting in his Jupiter Island mansion by the time Jason Day, Alex Noren and Ryan Palmer headed out for the playoff after the trio finished tied at 10-under par.
For Woods, chalk this one up as mission accomplished.
Incredible work, a really nice return after two years away from the game with one exception — The Devil Ball.
Tiger Woods shot 72-71-70-72 to finish three-under par and tied for 23rd. Amazing considering The Devil Ball was along for the ride for all four days.
The Devil Ball? Yes, that would be Woods’ tee shots. He had the left and right miss going, at times he missed fairways by 40-50 yards — a true Devil Ball.
He hit eight fairways the first day then just three in each of his final three rounds — total 17 fairways out of possible 56.
“A solid four days,” was how he put it after an even par final 18 holes that was up there with the day’s best performances.
“I fought hard for those scores,” he was quick to point out. No doubt about that. He put on a short game display that was the envy of the field. Every time you’d look, he was making a critical par saving putt or sinking a birdie putt from 15 feet when he was fortunate enough to get it that close. Tough to play from the rough and he had to feel like he spent a month in the rough over those four rounds.
“He needs to get it in play,” said former LPGA star Dottie Pepper, who walked every hole with Woods on Sunday as part of the broadcast team.
Sir Nick Faldo must have said 100 times that Woods needs to get his arms and body in sync if he wants to find the fairways.
Yes, as good as he played after such a long absence from the game, Woods knows he’s got a long way to go.
That was what he says he needs to work on for the next couple of weeks. We’ll see him in three weeks when he plays in the Genesis Open at Riviera, a course he is not that fond of but he’ll play because his foundation is the beneficiary.
If you had said on Friday that Woods would beat Jon Rahm, you might have gotten some harsh looks. At that point, Rahm had shot 68-66 and was a shot off the lead. In fact Woods ended up beating Rahm. The world’s No. 2 shot 75-77 over the weekend. Tiger beat him by 10 shots.
Phil Mickelson had to take notice. Woods beat him by three shots. So next time Phil tells us he’s getting close, pay no attention. A guy who’s been off for two years just bitch-slapped him.
Which brings us back to Tiger.
Can’t say enough about his short game. That’s for certain.
Can’t say anything about the long game.
The Devil Ball will do that to you.