Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth began the week by receiving the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards, respectively, from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. After two days of stalking the Torrey Pines fairways alongside each other at the Farmers Insurance Open, Jordan The Younger outplayed and served notice on Eldrick the Elder that he had designs on that PoY trophy.
Well it wasn't the big one but honored to receive the ROY award next to the best in the game! http://t.co/19PWntHCMK— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) January 22, 2014
Going into the much-anticipated 2014 tour debuts of the world's No. 1 and No. 4, It was going to take a lot to crash the Woods-Phil Mickelson party. With Lefty playing cautiously to protect his aching back, however, and Tiger failing, for the second straight day, to capitalize on any of the par-5s, where he normally makes his living at Torrey Pines, it was all Spieth.
"That was the buildup of the week -- what were these two guys going to shoot playing together," Golf Channel’s Nick Faldo observed as Woods finished his round with a head-scratching bogey on the par-5 ninth (his last hole of the day) on the North Course, the easier of the two Torrey layouts. "Jordan’s just playing his own game ... Just keeping it simple where Tiger is doing a lot of thinking about his game right now."
For sure, Spieth, partnered with the winner of seven Farmers tourneys and all that entails, what with potential on-course head games and the constant hubbub of the enormous galleries outside the ropes, was unimpressed and most certainly, unbowed by the enormity of the situation.
"I’ve spent a lot of time with [Woods]. It wasn’t the first time I’d teed it up next to a guy I watched growing up so that definitely helped," Spieth told Golf Channel after carding a 9-under 63, aiming perhaps an intentional old-man zinger aimed at the 38-year-old, 14-time major champion.
"He’s easy to play with, he talks to us," Spieth noted, adding that Woods and the third member of the marquee threesome, Jimmy Walker, were "both very easy, fun guys to play with.
"We all played with some good speed, kept the tempo up, and I just played my game," said Spieth, who missed just one of 18 greens, hit eight of 14 fairways in regulation, and needed just 28 putts to cruise to the top of the leader board.
His game on this day, in which the tour sophomore appeared in control of all aspects from tee to green, included three straight bogies and six more to go with zero errors. He also birdied two of the four par-5s, which was a pair better than Woods was able to manage.
Combined with an opening-round 71, Spieth will enter the weekend one shot clear of Stewart Cink and with an eye-popping nine-stroke advantage over Woods. The defending champ hit just five fairways, 12 greens, and required 30 putts on his way to a two-birdie, one-bogey, 15-par day.
For Woods, who entered the week looking for a record ninth victory on a course he has owned over the years -- thanks, in large part, to his mastery of the par-5s -- it was bizarro world. Friday’s round marked just the sixth time in his career that he has finished two rounds of any tournament with no birdies or better on the par-5s.
Tiger Woods was 8-under on par 5's in rounds 1 & 2 at this event last year. He's +1 on them through 36 holes this year.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) January 24, 2014
The last time Woods recorded such an inglorious round was in the 2012 Honda Classic, where he rebounded to finished T2. The other four: the 1998 and 2005 Tour Championships (finished 20th and runner-up, respectively), and the post-sex scandal 2010 AT&T National (T46) and 2010 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (T78).
While Woods, who heads to Saturday at 1-under, just one shot clear of the projected cut line, Spieth declared all he had to do to keep his magical mystery tour on track was to tame the circuit that makes Mickelson grind his teeth.
"The South Course is a different animal than the North Course, so just want to play it exactly like I played it yesterday," said Spieth, who tied the best round to par in his short professional career.
Jordan Spieth is now -8 for the day, tied for the lead @FarmersInsOpen - best career round to par is -9, final round at '13 Deutsche Bank.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) January 24, 2014
"If I’m putting a little better on that course, I can still shoot 3- or 4-under and that’s a great score," he said. "It’s a U.S. Open-type venue so I’ve got to keep the ball on the fairway."
Woods, who told reporters he was "a yard off, a foot off all day," was somewhat dazzled with what the most recent potential heir apparent brought to the course.
"I believe it’s the first time I’ve played with him in competition. I think I might have played with him in a practice round in the Presidents Cup. I think that’s about it, but never in a tournament," Woods said about his 20-year-old playing partner.
"The kid’s got talent. He hits it a long way, phenomenal putter," added Woods, who three-putted two greens on Friday. "He made a boatload of putts today from the 10-to-20-foot range ... he was pouring them in there. He had speed on them too, so that’s what you have to do ... putted with a lot of confidence."
As for the Tiger-Phil game-within-a-game, Mickelson holds the edge. Three-time Farmers victor Lefty, unfortunately emulating Woods on his final hole, missed his par putt and ended his scratchy round of 73 with his own bogey on the South Course’s par-5 18th.
"I just can't stand bogeying the last hole with a sand wedge in the middle of the fairway," said Mickelson, who for the second straight day warned that his bad back may force him to withdraw from the event. "That's a terrible way to finish."