Blog Entry

Woods has familiar final result in UAE -- defeat

Posted on: January 29, 2012 7:51 am
Edited on: January 29, 2012 11:06 am
Tiger Woods

Organizers of the high-powered European Tour event in Abu Dhabi staged an interesting promotion in the third round, allowing all of the fans who wore red clothes – the primary color of the title sponsor -- into the event for free.

A day later, the most famous guy ever to don that identity-defining color didn’t much show up at all.

Seeking to end a 26-month drought in official worldwide events, former world No. 1 Tiger Woods struggled just to stay in the mix and blew a share of the 54-hole lead for the ninth time in 61 tries.

After playing as well as he had since his last victory in 2009 for most of the week, Woods spent most of the day in Abu Dhabi scrambling to keep pace of journeyman pro Robert Rock, who won by a stroke over Rory McIlroy and two over Woods, recording only his second European Tour victory.

The remarkably unflappable Rock, playing alongside Woods and under an extreme microscope, put together a three-stroke lead at one point and never caved when under duress, though Woods and other pursuers, including fellow major winners McIlroy, Paul Lawrie and Graeme McDowell kept up the chase.

"Early on, I was very, very nervous," Rock conceded.

For Woods, it wasn’t just another high-profile opportunity missed -- there were plenty of fairways and greens he failed to find, as well. Before this week, Rock was best-known for the bushy head of hair, which he doesn’t cover with a hat. But it was Woods who kept finding the shaggiest portions of the course Sunday.

Nine years ago, Rock was an unknown British club pro, so it's a safe bet that while stocking shelves, he folded a few Tiger swoosh shirts in his day. Sunday, Woods folded himself.

"I was right there with a chance to win the golf tournament -- didn't do it," Woods said. "I felt I was just a touch off."

Entering the final round tied with Rock for the lead, Woods had found an impressive 46 of 54 greens and missed several others by a matter of feet, but that unerring accuracy was nowhere to be found Sunday. After making birdies on the second and third holes, he made back-to-back bogeys and it was uphill the rest of the way.

After weeks of showing progress in his game, Woods finished with a 72 and looked as mortal as he had at any point over the past few months. He found an abysmal two of 14 fairways and six of 18 greens in regulation, making for a day of gouging, hacking and scrambling to keep pace with the comparatively solid Rock. He didn’t have a birdie on the back nine.

All but made of Teflon at the peak of his Sunday powers, Woods has now lost the 54-hole lead in three of his past five opportunities, a figure that includes his unofficial Chevron World Challenge defeat at the hands of Graeme McDowell in late 2010.

How improbable was the victory by Rock, an Englishman ranked No. 117 in the world? Woods entered the week having won 52 of 60 global events in which he held at least a share of the 54-hole lead.

Woods hadn’t won on the PGA or European tours since Sept. 13, 2009, though he won the Australian Masters 26 months ago.

Maybe it’s something in the water, except that there isn’t any. Woods also blew a 54-hole lead in the sand-strewn United Arab Emirates in 2001, when he lost the lead to Thomas Bjorn in Dubai.

Rock made a tactical and physical mess with a bogey of the par-5 18th, but by then, Woods was three back and had missed yet another fairway, hitting a big hook off the final tee when an eagle might have given him a chance at a playoff.

About the only positive for the day for Woods was his putter -- perhaps the last piece to his comeback puzzle -- which was all that kept him in the hunt given the shocking number of greens he missed.

It was as though Rock and Woods changed personas on Sunday. With his lead cut to a shot over Woods, McIlroy and Lawrie, he birdied the 14th, the most difficult hole of the day, and added another on the 16th to claim a three-stroke lead.

Woods was the only player in the final top five who did not break par in the final round.

Where does it leave the once-impenetrable world No. 1?

It was probably akin to two steps forward, one step back. The defeat marked the second time he’s been taken down in head-to-head battle by a relative unknown, as Rock joined Y.E. Yang in the upset category.

In one regard, that he was able to compete well into the final round on a course with narrow driving corridors and high rough was a positive. After a sloppy first round, Woods’ putting was solid and then some, seemingly a harbinger of better days ahead.

But Rock, a former English club pro, gave even more hope to another legion of unheralded players seeking to put a dent in what’s left of Woods’ aura.

Woods’ next start will be his U.S. opener in two weeks at Pebble Beach.

"I'm pleased with my progress," said Woods, who has finished in the top three of his past three starts that awarded world-ranking points. "I just need to keep building and get more consistent."

Rock joined Bjorn, Yang, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Ed Fiori on the list of players who beat Woods on Sunday when he held at least a share of the 54-hole lead.

Category: Golf

Since: Jun 7, 2008
Posted on: January 30, 2012 1:40 pm

Woods has familiar final result in UAE -- defeat

Did I miss something or did Rock beat No. 1 Luke Donald, Graeme Mcdowell, Roy McIlroy and a gaggle of other excellent pro golfers?  They ALL  failed to get by this guy.  So what? How did Phil do last week?? Oh yeah, he failed to miss the cut in a mediocre field.  Anyone want to write about how he's fallen off of the map? 

Ever look at Jack Nicklaus' record?  He had a bit of a slump from '76 through '80.  Hmmmm.  In those years he was 36 through 40 years old.  He then came back to win 3 more majors and several other tourneys. 

Is a shock that Tiger is not quite the Tiger of old after the personal, self-inflicted turmoil combined with a major physical problem?  Hell no.  While I'm not defending Tiger, pro golf needs and and like a few others on this board, I agree that the game needs him to be competitive.  And to the bloke who says he lost 3 of the last 5 after being at the top -- who else can say they were right there to win in their last 5 tourneys?  I think  Tiger is close, but he's still got a few things to get right before he can compete like he used to ---- or compete at his best, which will undoubtedly never reach heights of his prior peak when he was the greatest golfer of all time.

Since: Aug 16, 2011
Posted on: January 30, 2012 12:36 pm

Woods has familiar final result in UAE -- defeat

This is pretty much what I've expected.  Tiger is still a great golfer and he will win again; he may even win another major or two.  But he is no longer the Tiger of old that strikes fear in every competitor who faces him.  If a journeyman like Rock can face off with Tiger and walk away with a victory, then the rest of the PGA's top players can do the same.  The magic is gone.  The miracle shots are gone.  The dominance is gone.  He's still a great golfer, but that's a far drop from the super-human abilities that he once had.

Since: Nov 21, 2011
Posted on: January 30, 2012 8:10 am

Woods has familiar final result in UAE -- defeat

Elling - if your were as much of an accomplished golf reporter/columnist as you think you are you would recognize that Tiger has rebuilt his swing and clearly it did not hold up to sunday pressure. does that mean he is done? no only he still is not confident with the new swing path and needed this event and probably a couple more to "trust" the new swing before heading into the season and the majors. you know better that to spew this crap! stop being a hater and write a relistic column maybe more people will begin to follow you. i know this is the first column of yours' that i have read in a month and the last for more than that now!shame on you!

Since: Feb 25, 2008
Posted on: January 30, 2012 8:04 am

Woods has familiar final result in UAE -- defeat

no tiger didnt just win..he hasnt won an oficial event since 09. if we start countiung 18 men get togethers as wins then im sure lots of guys have won there sunday get togethers..he simply isnt the same player and likely will never be. no one is scared anymore and the quality of play has improved while woods spun his wheels

Since: Sep 6, 2006
Posted on: January 30, 2012 5:31 am

Woods has familiar final result in UAE -- defeat

the real loser here is still "elling"!  at least tiger will improve.

Since: Nov 15, 2006
Posted on: January 29, 2012 10:33 pm

Woods has familiar final result in UAE -- defeat

Steve Elling's "short game" is more full of bull that he thinks-with a healthy dose of bias.  Lets see how many pros hit as few fairways and greens in a round and still play even par. Is golf really a "head to head" battle?  Only if you're hitting the ball at each other while you play. Let's get back to giving players other than Tiger credit for winning on their own merit, instead of based on whether Tiger played poorly or not.  The fact is that Tiger's game is clearly on the upswing over the last 4 tournaments-something that is apparently obvious to all but Mr. Elling.

Since: Nov 18, 2006
Posted on: January 29, 2012 10:33 pm

Woods has familiar final result in UAE -- defeat

Man Elling sounds like a spurned lover. Get over it Steve!!! your supposed to add to a story not to a tear soaked rejection letter!!  To think Tiger is a failure just because he doesn't win everytime he enters a tourney or has a share of the lead has  a bit of a  fanatsy geek tinged to it. the guy shot par without a clean shot on the day. Can't wait for the" 5 wins in 10 tournaments "returns to make this game watchable on tv again

Since: Oct 13, 2007
Posted on: January 29, 2012 10:17 pm

Woods has familiar final result in UAE -- defeat

jack_sprat, are you familiar with what therapist refer to as a 'Narcissistic Personality Disorder"?  

Since: Dec 27, 2006
Posted on: January 29, 2012 9:41 pm

Woods has familiar final result in UAE -- defeat

Elling's vendetta against Woods is so evident that it has gotten nauseating. The fact that Woods trailed by only one stroke after 13.

Seeking to end a 26-month drought in official worldwide events, former world No. 1 Tiger Woods struggled just to stay in the mix and blew a share of the 54-hole lead for the ninth time in 61 tries.
I am just curious how many pros have held a 54 hole lead 61 times. Maybe Mickelson....although his statistic would be reversed that he only won 9 of those 61. Also, didn't Tiger just win? Oh, I'm sorry, that wasn't "official".

What a jerk Elling is. I hope Tiger wins an official event soon just so Elling can write about someone else because he certainly won't rave about Tiger success.

Since: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: January 29, 2012 7:05 pm

Woods has familiar final result in UAE -- defeat

I'm not sure what Ellings deal is... He really seems to have a vendetta against Woods, who shot a great tournament and faded a bit at the end. Was Ellings wife one of Tigers mistresses? Maybe she was the IHop lady he was tagging. What a clown. You'd think he actually had some talent, judging by the way he routinely trashes, arguably, the best golfer to ever play the game, definitely the best of this generation. He just comes off sounding like every other no-talent knob gobbler who jumps on the CBS boards to trash Tiger. He cheated on his wife, get over it you Nancys. If thats the criteria for hating someone then you must hate a large portion of the population and an overwhelming majority of pro athletes. Get a life losers, starting with Elling.

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