Tiger Woods’ rollercoaster Japan Skins ends with shorted putt

October 21, 2019
Tiger Woods at The Challenge: Japan Skins on Monday afternoon.

Tiger Woods opened up the Japan Skins with a tee ball down the left rough on Monday afternoon (that’s local time — it’s important to note that this was midnight on the East Coast). His second shot caught a tree. His third shot came up short. And then he hit a middling chip, leaving himself some six feet for bogey. Jason Day cheekily told him to pick it up. “That’s very generous of you,” Woods shot back sarcastically.

That was the way The Challenge went for Woods for the first few holes, where he offered rusty play and half-hearted banter as he eased his way into the competition. A double-crossed iron shot. A putt hammered 15 feet past the hole. A driver he said would have been a shank if it were an iron. “I did not play well at the beginning,” Woods said succinctly. “I hit a lot of bad shots and did not putt well.”

But a turning point came at the par-3 5th. After Woods hit a high hook into the left bunker, he watched as his three opponents hit their tee shots into the water, one after the next after the next. A nifty sand save got him on the board with $20,000. It was on.

It was on for a while, at least. Woods picked up another $40,000 with a three-skin birdie at No. 8. The chatter on course loosened up, including a fun bit between Woods and McIlroy talking about playing golf at high altitude. Woods gave himself more chances and remained right in the mix to take top honors when he birdied No. 16. But Jason Day tied the hole with a birdie putt of his own, then won No. 17 with a par as the other three players melted away.

There was one final chance: the $100,000 18th hole. Woods found the left trees off the tee but punched to a comfortable wedge yardage. He ended up with a 12-footer for birdie that was worth a whole lot, particularly after Day tapped in his birdie putt. The stakes were clear. Make it and everybody would move to extra holes. Miss it and the skins game would be over.

Woods ended up walking through Door No. 2. Underneath the bright lights illuminating 17 and 18, he hit a putt that never threatened the hole but instead stayed more than a foot short of the cup. But before the crowd even had time to react, Woods scooped up his ball and made a move to congratulate Jason Day. “How fun was that?” he said.

There were plenty of positives to focus on and no real ramifications for the negatives — namely, losing to Jason Day. Woods seemed pleased with how the event went off. “Once I got into the flow of competing and feeling the round, it just got exciting. We were competitive, the banter was great, the back and forth. And I hit some good shots toward the end,” he said.

In the end, Woods took home $60,000 in skins money — tied for second with McIlroy — while Day won it all with an impressive $210,000. All four of Monday’s competitors will get a chance to rest up before getting back to stroke play Thursday for the first-ever playing of the Zozo Championship.