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Tour Confidential: Making sense of Tiger Woods' 79 at Torrey Pines -- plus Jordan Spieth, Scott Sallings, and plans to save golf

Tiger Woods
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Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the third hole during the first round of the Famers Insurance Open on Torrey Pines South on Saturday.

Every Sunday night, conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. A 79 for Tiger Woods and a MDF (made cut, did not finish) at a place he's won eight times. Is this cause for concern, or should we just chalk this one up to off-season rust?

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine (@CameronMorfit): He wasn't as far off as it seems from the score. Torrey was a beast, and a lot of guys struggled. I made a passing reference to his struggles to Sean Foley, who I think had the right take, that it was only the third day of the year. There's golf, there's tournament golf, and there's major-like tournament golf. Torrey South was major-ish. Tiger's just starting the season. Thus the 79.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): You can never rush to judgment after one bad round. Although it was a 79 with four birdies and a lengthy par-saving putt on the final hole, so it probably could have been worse. I heard a guy on the ASU Karsten Course putting green today say before he went out to play, "I just want to play as well as Tiger did yesterday." One man's 79 is another man's career low.

Joe Passov, senior editor, courses and travel, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): It's certainly bizarre, but hardly unprecedented. Remember that 37-45--82 that Nicklaus shot in the final round at Pebble one year during his prime? I'm not ready to overreact just yet.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): It's offseason rust -- but it's concerning that he came into this event rusty. Still plenty of time to get it together for Augusta, but you can't completely overlook the contrast between last year's win and this week's dud.

Mike Walker, assistant managing editor, (@michaelwalkerjr): Definitely cause for concern. This wasn’t Muirfield in gale-force winds; Torrey Pines is supposed to be Tiger’s happy place. Even if it’s just rust, his limited playing schedule doesn’t give him much time to shake it off, especially if he has another early exit from the Match Play.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I'm certainly not concerned about Tiger Woods shooting 79 in his first Tour event of the year. I have other things to worry about.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): I wouldn't go pushing the panic button or flashing the Bat signal in the sky. But I also wouldn't chalk it up entirely to rust. The guy took a little time off, but you can bet he was still practicing. It's not like Boba Fett had him frozen in carbonite or anything. And do we get bonus points for two entirely unrelated pop culture references in a single answer?

2. There was talk about the rough being too thick at Torrey Pines this week with the implication that it led to Phil Mickelson wrenching his back and Tiger's early exit. Is that a valid point? Why or why not?

BAMBERGER: Rough? On a course set up for the best players in the world? I am shocked.

SENS: Pardon me while I lay down the world's tiniest violin. Sorry. No sympathy here. Tiger missed the cut because he played terribly all around. He didn't just hit wayward drives. He flubbed chips; missed putts. Phil's injury is a bummer and you hate to see it happen to anyone, but injuries are part of the game and, last I checked, the vast majority of the field walked away from Torrey unhurt.

MORFIT: Amazing how they got the rough so thick despite the drought in California, but I'm told Phil was actually sore even before he got here. I think the tournament committee did feel that the course was maybe playing a little overly hard. I say that because they moved the tee up so far on the par-3 third, from 200 yards on the card to 138. Charley Hoffman aced it. Erik Compton nearly aced it. It was like a gift to the players.

RITTER: Not sure I buy the concept of "Danger Rough." Guys have three days of practice rounds to test the rough. It's a shame Phil had to WD, but it's not the superintendent's fault.

VAN SICKLE: We went through this a few years back when every stop on the Florida swing tried to recreate the U.S. Open. All it did was drive players away. Even Arnold Palmer finally caved and toned it down at Bay Hill when his field started to lack some star power. Remember, the PGA Tour is a recruiting war in which every regular Tour stop is competing against every other Tour stop in an attempt to draw the biggest names. If your tournament has ridiculous, no-fun rough and brick greens, it's easy to scratch it off the schedule if you're a top player.

WALKER: It’s never good when a regular Tour stop gets compared to the U.S. Open, especially one so early in calendar.

PASSOV: While attractive, Torrey is enough of a slog under normal conditions that there's no need to embellish it further with a veil of thick rough. I get it if it's the U.S. Open. For the Farmers, wholly unnecessary. I'm not going link dense rough alone as the cause of Tiger and Phil's ills, but it sure didn't help matters.

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