by Rebecca BRYAN Tiger Woods gave his surgically fused spine its toughest test to date and came away with a tie for 23rd place in the Farmers Insurance Open.
The former world number one carded an even-par 72 on Sunday on the Torrey Pines South Course, where his eight PGA Tour victories include his 14th and most recent major title at the 2008 US Open.
“Today I played a lot better,” said Woods, who had four birdies and four bogeys in a round that gave him a three-under par total of 285 and a share of 23rd place.
“It was tough conditions out there,” he added of Santa Ana winds gusting across the course. “It was tough scoring.”
The wind helped make for a marathon day, and Australian Jason Day and Alex Noren were still locked in battle when darkness fell as they completed the fifth playoff hole.
Ryan Palmer had been eliminated at the first hole of sudden death, but Day and Noren continued to duel through four more holes and were to return on Monday morning to settle it.
“I’ll play all day tomorrow if I have to,” said Day, a former world number one seeking his first title since 2016 who carded a final-round 70.
Sweden’s Noren, a nine-time winner on the European Tour who held the overnight lead, posted a 73 and Palmer carded a 72.
Woods was seven shots off the 10-under total of 278 that put Day, Noren and Palmer into the playoff.
Woods was playing his first US tour event since missing the cut at Torrey Pines last year.
He had missed all of 2016 with back trouble, and his comeback bid last year was cut short by recurring pain and spinal fusion surgery in April.
Woods hit just 17 of 56 greens all week, but he displayed a deft touch around the greens and solid putting to bring it in under par.
Most importantly, there was no sign of any back trouble as he looks ahead to his next scheduled start at Riviera in Los Angeles February 15-18.
– Solid four days -“Very pleased,” said Woods, who hadn’t made the cut in a PGA Tour event since his tie for 10th at the Wyndham Championship in August of 2015.
“After not playing for a couple of years to come out here on the Tour and really play a solid four days — I fought hard for these scores.
“These weren’t yawners, down the middle, on the green, two-putt and one-hand all your second putts in the hole,” he said. “I had to fight for every score on every hole. It showed that I had heart. I fought my tail off and it was good stuff.”
Woods said before the tournament that his expectations were “tempered.”
But after rounds of 72-71-70 he said he went out Sunday — clad in his traditional final-round red and black — with an ambitious number in mind.
“I wanted to shoot something around 65 — thought that would be a playoff number,” Woods said.
For the first time all week, Woods put his opening tee shot in the fairway en route to a par at the 10th.
Although he again hit just three of 14 fairways, Woods’s misses weren’t as wild as those of Friday and Saturday.
A birdie chance at 13 went begging when an over-eager fan in the immense gallery following Woods yelled as he stroked his 10-footer.
But Woods, clearly angry, shook it off to roll in a 12-footer for birdie at 14.
That launched a sequence of birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie, with Woods rolling in a five-footer at the 18th.
He reached five-under for the tournament — and broke into the top 20 on the leaderboard — with a birdie at the second before two bogeys coming home.
“I’m excited to get this one under my belt,” said Woods, adding that until his next start he’ll be working on “everything.” DM
Daily Maverick © All rights reserved