SAN DIEGO — When the second half of the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open began Monday at Torrey Pines, Davis High graduate Nick Watney was six shots back and the only player with any hope of catching a sizzling Tiger Woods.
But with only 10 holes to play, the former Blue Devil would have needed a performance along the lines of the record 28 he shot on the back nine in 2011 to catch up. Watney, however, went the other way, struggling through Monday’s play at 2-over par — shooting a 38 on the back nine — to finish 9-under in a tie for fourth behind Woods, who completed his landmark 75th win.
Woods wrapped up the event with a four-shot victory over Brandt Snedeker and Josh Teater, his eighth win at Torrey Pines. With the 75th PGA Tour victory, Woods is now second all-time, only seven short of the legendary Sam Snead.
This was the caliber of performance that sport has come to expect from Woods since he delivered emphatically at the 1997 Masters, winning by 12 strokes. It also harkened back to a time when Woods won consistently, and by significant margins.
Against arguably the best field of the early season at the Farmers, Woods’ pursuers were hardly able to sustain a substantial charge at his lead.
Last year’s champion Snedeker ran out of holes quickly and completed his final five holes at even par, eventually tying for second place with Teater.
In each of the eight seasons that Woods has won at Torrey Pines, he has finished that campaign with at least four tournament victories. So, is Tiger back?
“I never left,” Woods told the media. “All I can do is control what I do on the golf course.
“I would like to win eight or nine times a year; that’s not a bad thing.”
Woods’ schedule remains characteristically uncertain from here, but next week will be big for Watney, who is coming off of two consecutive top-15 finishes to start the year. Not only will he be playing at the Phoenix Open beginning Thursday, but his beloved San Francisco 49ers will be playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl, an event he says he’s looking forward to.
“One game is tough, but I think the Niners are a better team,” Watney told The Enterprise. “I like watching the safeties — Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson. Those guys put it to ’em.”
If Watney keeps playing like he has early in his season, the 49ers might want to return the favor and check him out.
— Garrett Johnston is a sports writer and video producer based in Sacramento. He has been covering the PGA Tour for the past eight years, and has followed Watney closely for the past three.