DORAL, Fla. (AP) — Tiger Woods walked off the 10th green and veered sharply to the left, a detour to the 18th tee that surprised a throng of fans who had been chasing after him on a blustery morning at Doral.
The world’s No. 1 player finally met his match on the Blue Monster.
“It’s blowing pretty hard out there, so we just had to call it a little early,” Woods said.
Gusts topped 30 mph Wednesday morning on the final day of practice — his only day of practice — for the CA Championship, which begins Thursday morning with 79 players competing for an $8 million purse, good work if you can find it.
Woods already has plenty of experience at Doral.
He won two years in a row on this course when it was a full-field PGA Tour event. Then it was morphed into a World Golf Championship, and he won again.
A victory this week — remember, Woods hasn’t lost a tournament since September — would make this the sixth golf course where he has won at least four times. The others are Torrey Pines, Bay Hill, Augusta National, Firestone and Cog Hill.
More impressive is his winning streak, the longest of his career worldwide.
It is now up to five on the PGA Tour with that dramatic victory at Bay Hill, six worldwide including his 31 on the back nine to win in Dubai. His longest streak on the PGA Tour is seven tournaments, and this one looks even more impressive. The buzz is so palpable, that some are starting to wonder if Woods will ever lose again.
“I’m sure it will happen eventually,” Woods said, and that must have been reassuring to those playing against him.
These are exciting times in golf. And they are frustrating times for the guys trying to beat him.
“He inhales so many wins that there’s not much breathing room for the rest of us,” Stewart Cink said.
Woods and Jim Furyk decided 11 holes would suffice. It was hard to find anyone who played all 18 at Doral.
Phil Mickelson spent Wednesday at Augusta National, a sneak peek with the Masters a month away. Adam Scott made his detour to Augusta National on Monday, and he found it a little more tame than Doral.
Not that he was wasting his time on the Blue Monster.
“If you play nine holes, you can get a lot out it,” Scott said. “It’s a good indication of what a four-club wind, or a five-club wind is like. It’s one thing to practice on the range. It’s another to practice on the course.”
So why not play 18?
“There’s a chance to do damage to your swing,” he said.
The wind was so fierce that Scott played the 467-yard 18th hole on Tuesday and hit a driver as well as he can. He still had a 5-wood left to reach the green, and that barely made it.
Not even Woods was immune to such wind.
He took a mighty rip with his driver and it barely stayed in the first cut of rough, right of the water. Then came a 3-wood that came up just short and to the right of the green. Furyk, meanwhile, had a far tougher time. He also pounded a driver, a low trajectory to cheat the wind, and when he arrived at his ball in the fairway, he immediately sought the yardage remaining from a sprinkler head.
Furyk was so far back, the sprinkler had no numbers.
He called out to his caddie, Mike “Fluff” Cowan, who was 20 yards ahead and walking by a marker for everyday play at Doral.
“Is that the 200?” Furyk said.
“No — 225,” Cowan replied.
This is what could await Woods and the rest of the world’s best gathered for the CA Championship. The forecast is for strong wind throughout the week, maybe not gusts like they were Wednesday, but enough to make a difference.
The CA Championship is for the top players from money lists around the globe, along with the top 50 in the world. British Open champion Padraig Harrington and David Smail of New Zealand declined to play, leaving 79 players in the field.
Woods simply has feasted on these events.
When he captured the Accenture Match Play Championship last month in Arizona, he became the first player to hold all three World Golf Championships at the same time. That shouldn’t be too surprising, since he already has won 15 out of 26 he has played.
And there is no indication that Woods is about to let up.
Walking down the eighth fairway, caddie Steve Williams was asked how he spent Monday after Bay Hill.
“Practice,” he said as he kept walking.
What about Tuesday?
“Practice,” Williams said, adding after a few more steps, “but not as much.”
Woods might be the only guy not wrapped up in his streak, the longest he has gone in his career without losing. He counts it as seven, including his unofficial Target World Challenge against a field of 16. But everything is geared toward four weeks a year, starting next month at the Masters.
“You can win every tournament for the entire year, but if you go 0-for-4 in major championships … you don’t really get remembered for the number of wins in a career,” he said. “It’s the number of wins in major championships. Those are the biggest events. If you win one major a year, it turns a good year into a great one.”