Rock, of course, won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship by a stroke on Sunday by shooting a 2-under 70. Tiger Woods, who shared the 54-hole lead with the journeyman from Staffordshire, England, could manage no better than an even-par 72. I know Tiger put a nice spin on this missed opportunity, but it has to be disappointing.
As Alistair Tait wrote for Golfweek, “Tiger was a child prodigy. Rock was a child nobody.”
Not to take anything away from Rock, but he was ranked 100 and change in the world and openly admitted he might soil himself because of the pairing. He hardly slept and grew a beard over night. (OK, he already had the beard.) Still, Tiger losing to a Rock would not—could not—have happened a few years ago, right?
Tiger made two early birdies and momentarily looked like The Man we all remember. But Rock didn’t crumble. (Sorry.) He made two birdies of his own. Then Tiger carded back-to-back bogeys at holes 4 and 5, and that was pretty much it. Balls were flying into the rough and missing the greens. It was a grind all the way to the clubhouse.
I saw some of the Rock-Tiger duel live in the wee hours of Sunday morning. It wasn’t planned. There were five teenage girls at the house for a sleepover. (Isn’t it funny how they call it a sleepover? They should simply call it an “over.” Sleep—that’s a joke.) I awoke at 2 a.m. When I realized I wasn’t going to immediately get back to sleep, I turned on the Golf Channel. I watched the first six holes of the final round and turned back in at 4:30 a.m.
Tiger’s performance does represent progress. It’s a process, as he likes to say. His swing and his game are definitely improving. But they weren’t as solid as a Rock when it counted on Sunday, red and black day. For me, that was a bit surprising. And for Tiger, perhaps a bit troubling.
−The Armchair Golfer