Tiger Woods has played in the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach just twice in the last 12 years so it was hardly a surprise when the struggling world No. 1 followed the money to India rather than put up with Bill Murray’s antics.
But with would-be golf fans and the media reportedly stiff-armed out of the proceedings, it’s difficult to imagine how Woods’ outing in New Delhi will accomplish anything other than line the pockets of the richest player in history, let alone grow the game.
"Tiger's visit to India is going to make a huge impact and there is a big buzz already not only in Delhi but the whole country," Shiv Kapur, a New Delhi native and European Tour golfer who will participate in the 18-hole cash-grabbing exhibition with Hero Motors Group chief executive Pawan Munjal, told the Times of India on Monday. "I know the members at my club are very excited and there is going to be people climbing all over the walls just to get a glimpse of Tiger."
Woods makes his first trip to India for a reported seven-figure payday following the worst two-game start to his professional career. After missing the 54-hole cut at Torrey Pines, his first-ever MDF (made cut, did not finish), Tiger failed to break 70 in scuffling to a T41 finish in Dubai.
His worst close in a Farmers Insurance Open event he has won seven times, plus a back-of-the-pack conclusion Sunday on an Emirates Golf Club track on which he’s recorded two victories, culminated in Woods earning a dubious distinction: the first time in his 18-year career Tiger has finished outside the top 20 in a pair of tournaments to start his year.
Last season was a good example of how Tiger has typically kicked off his campaigns -- an impressive streak that included winning one of his first two appearances in a year nine times as well as consecutive triumphs in his opening two starts three times. In 2013,Tiger bombed out of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after two rounds but bounced back a week later with a four-shot win at Torrey.
"Unfortunately I turned it around too late," Woods told reporters Sunday after a closing 71 that put him at 6-under for the week and 10 shots back of Stephen Gallacher, who left opening-rounds playing partners Woods and Rory McIlroy in his dust on the way to a successful defense of his Dubai Desert Classic title. "I drove it great today ... Iron game was not as sharp as I'd like and I didn't make anything. I had seven lip-outs today. That's quite a few lip-outs.
Always the optimist about the status of his game, at least when engaging in a bit of badinage with his pals in the press, Woods said he had just a few wrinkles to iron out before his next, to-be-announced competitive event.
"The long game was certainly frustrating last week. Definitely made some good putts and this week, just kept lipping everything out," he said. "My speed is just a fraction off."
With Woods reportedly skipping match play later this month but expected to start at the Honda Classic, he’ll have about a month between official gigs. Following a lengthy hiatus between losing to Zach Johnson at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge and his Peyton Manning-esque choke job at Torrey, it would appear that Tiger was in need of more, not fewer, competitive reps.
Since he will apparently opt for time off and practice rather than tournament conditions, Woods obviously needs some time alone with his new driver, with which he found just over half (53.57 percent) of fairways last week.
Then there’s the balky putter. Sure, he birdied the final three holes on Sunday at Emirates Golf Club, where he had previously notched two wins. But serially burning the edges in the finale prevented him from making any kind of move up the leader board.
"I'm probably going to work on my lag putting," he said about how he would prioritize his near-term practice sessions at home. "My lag putting needs to be a little bit better than it has been, get the speed on those putts. But as far as hitting my lines, I'm hitting my lines. I just don't have the speed just right. Concentrate a little bit more on speed and as I said, I really need to start chipping out of ryegrass.
"That's something that I just need to start doing, because the technique is so different chipping out of bermuda and that's all I have at the house," Woods added. "Going to have to alter that a little bit."
Despite pundits shaking their heads over what many perceived as Tiger’s terrible mechanics, the winner of 79 PGA Tour events claimed, as is his habit, that he was just a lip-out away from turning things around.
"A quick little fix to my grip and that was all good, and the driving was something that I didn't really do very well last week. This weekend, nice to be able to start piping it out there again and getting it out there with the big boys, when I didn't have my grip right," he said. "I throttled back a little bit, try to get the ball in play, and just don't hit it as far. I'm able to now start letting it go, a couple of carries out there in the 310 [yard], 315 range and I hit over the top of them. So that's back to where I should be."