Tiger feels 'caught' on short game

SAN DIEGO -- It was a simple pro-am round, usually a casual affair with light banter and not a lot of serious golf being played. But for Tiger Woods on Wednesday, the nine holes at Torrey Pines were a serious practice session that produced more troubling results and suggest that his short game will remain a work in progress.

Coming off his worst score as a professional (an 82) and a missed cut (by 12 shots) at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Friday, Woods begins play Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open admittedly looking ahead and trying to take the long view on his game.

"The whole idea is to make sure that I'm ready for Augusta, so I got a lot of rounds to play between now and then," Woods said of the Masters in April. "That's what we're building for, and if I happen to play well enough to get into Doral, then great, I got four more rounds there. If I don't, then still trying to peak for Augusta."

Woods was referring to the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral next month, a tournament he is currently not qualified for after falling out of the top 50 in the world. He is ranked 56th and needs to be in the top 50 either two weeks prior or a week prior to the Miami tournament. After this week, he is only scheduled to play at the Honda Classic, the week before Doral.

The Masters is another month after that, and Woods will return to the site of the year's first major championship having gone 10 years since winning his last green jacket.

After missing the cut in Phoenix, Woods headed home to Florida and said he spent the weekend working on his short game in his backyard. He enlisted the help of new instructor Chris Como via phone and video. Como was also in attendance Wednesday, spending time with Woods on the driving range as well as during the round.

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 6 a.m. local time and went to the range, where peers soon stopped by to assess and chat. Among those taking interest and seemingly offering suggestions were Billy Horschel and Pat Perez, who even took to videotaping Woods' swing and short-game work.

Fog delayed the start of the pro-am by two hours and it was shortened to nine holes.

"I'm caught right in between patterns, and when I have to hit shots, I got to shape shots, I'm caught right dead in between. So, they are so polar opposites, the movement patterns."
Tiger Woods

Among the observers was Fred Couples, who paid off a Super Bowl bet to his longtime caddie and now Woods' caddie, Joe LaCava. He walked the nine holes, often conferring with Woods and Como.

On the course, there were some of the same problems witnessed last week at TPC Scottsdale. Several times Woods went to the side of greens and dropped a bunch of balls and chipped them onto the green, foregoing finishing the hole that his amateur partners were playing.

"I'm caught right in between patterns, and when I have to hit shots, I got to shape shots, I'm caught right dead in between," Woods said again of the difficulty in his short game now. "So, they are so polar opposites, the movement patterns, that when I do half of one or half of the other, it's pretty bad."

As for the work he got in at home, Woods said: "I was in the back yard chipping and I certainly was in my hitting bay, hitting golf balls and analyzing it and just trying to commit to the pattern.

"That said, when I get out here and I have to hit a shot, I'm caught right in between. I'm battling through that, battling through those times and trying to come with feel, even if I do happen to make a bad swing, I know what the fix is, but could I save it during the swing itself. My good is really good. Unfortunately, my bad is really bad.

"When you're under the gun, you got to hit a shot, you just get so target-oriented that sometimes old patterns come out and then you have a new one that's still trying to come out as well and you get caught."

Woods' admission that it is about peaking for the Masters was an odd one for him. While he has often said that is in the back of his mind, he rarely allows that the tournament at hand is not the most important.

In his last three events, Woods missed the cut at the PGA Championship, took a long break to let his back heal after a lost 2014 season, tied for last at the 18-player Hero World Challenge and then missed the cut last week.

At a place where he has won eight times but missed the secondary cut last year, expecting a lot of success over the next several days would appear optimistic.

"It's certainly a process -- I'm going through it right now, and Chris and I are working our tails off to try to get this," Woods said. "I want to get this. I want to be ready come Augusta and the rest of the majors, but we still got some work to do."

Woods is scheduled to play the first two rounds with Horschel and Rickie Fowler. They tee off No. 10 on Torrey's North course at 12:20 p.m. ET Thursday and off the first tee of the South course at 1:20 p.m. on Friday.