Woods loses to Zach Johnson in over time then bids farewell to Southern California
By Gary Montgomery
Thousand Oaks – They came by the thousands to get one last chance to see the world’s number one golfer and Tiger gave them everything they came to see but a win. After leading most of the tournament Woods’ lost to Zach Johnson in a one hole sudden death playoff.
The brainchild of his father Earl, Tiger Woods World Challenge funds much of the Woods Foundation’s educational endeavors. The inaugural event was held at Grayhawk Country Club in Scottsdale Arizona. The following year it was moved to Sherwood Country Club’s pristine setting nestled on the Thousand Oaks side of the Santa Monica Mountains.
After 15 years, The Tiger Woods Foundation announced early this month that it would be moving Tiger’s iconic tournament annually featuring 18 of the world’s top golfers to Florida after this year’s event. Sherwood Country Club has hosted 13 of the 14 previous events and has seen Tiger take home five of his own trophies.
Tiger’s new multi-year agreement will move his tournament to Isleworth Golf & Country in central Florida very near his previous residence. His departure leaves Californians with only one scheduled opportunity to see him play in person. Although he has not released his 2014 schedule, Tiger routinely plays the Farmers Insurance Open tournament at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, one of his favorite courses. Beyond that, his Tiger Woods Challenge is the only other annual California scheduled stop.
Ironically, this comes at what many believe to be the apex of Tiger’s return. Tiger is again the number one player in the world and is coming off a 2013 season that includes 5 wins, 8 top ten and 10 top 25 finishes in 16 events. Woods’ 2013 tour winnings of $8,533,439 outpace number 2 Hedrick Stenson by more than 2 million dollars.
Even after a loss, it's obvious that Tiger Woods is far from done as many of his detracted had earlier predicted and his progress is evident. His course record round of 62 on Friday was clear and undeniable evidence that when he gets all phases of his game in sync he’s the ‘Old Tiger’ and more maybe more.
Woods shot rounds of 71, 62, 72 and 70 in the final round on Sunday pushing his lead over Johnson to 4 strokes at one point. But, Tiger’s nemesis was his putting. “I just didn’t make enough putts and that’s the story. Said Woods. “I have been blocking them all week and it came back to haunt me today”.
Johnson came from four shots behind with 8 holes to play to tie Woods with and incredible hole out from the drop area making an improbable par that forced Tiger to hole out from the bunker to preserve the win.
Tiger’s bunker shot landed 2 feet from the hole and he finished with a par on 18 to shoot 70. Johnson shot 68 giving both players a 13 under 275 totals.
Playing the same hold in the sudden death, Tiger had nearly the same shot as in regulation and put his ball right back in the right side bunker again. “I was between clubs and tried to fly a soft 7-iron that I lost a little bit”. Johnson avoided the water this time and put his approach shot in the center of the green forcing Tiger to get up and down just to continue play.
Woods missed a number of critical putts throughout the week particularly those within the 10 feet range. After hitting another great bunker shot, Woods missed a 5 foot par attempt that would have sent the match to a second playoff hole. Woods putt hit the left side of the cup, appeared to go down and came back up on the other side of the hole giving Johnson the win and the $1,000,000 prize and also catapulting him to no. 9 in the world.
Tiger’s exit is said for California golf fans. He leaves Sherwood with 5 wins and 5 runner-ups. An impressive run by any measure but the last one would have been the crown jewel for Woods.
Sunday’s attendance of 24,922 was a record for any year and bears witness to the fact that fans know there will be limited opportunities to see Woods in the future. Traffic stretched for miles through the winding Santa Monica Mountain roads.
In his final remarks, Tiger thanked Sherwood and Southern California for helping raise more than 15 million dollars over the years for his Foundation’s educational programs which have sent thousands of young men and women to colleges across the nation.
Gmontgomery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org