Don't hit panic button for Tiger, yet
Torrey Pines full of surprise top-10 finishers
For anyone not familiar with the acronym MDF (made cut, did not finish), it's now officially mainstream after Tiger Woods missed the secondary cut at Torrey Pines. With Woods out of the mix, Scott Stallings took advantage and held off a slew of challengers at the Farmers Insurance Open for a third career victory.
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So what does Woods' 79 mean going forward? And what was the deal with having a U.S. Open-like tournament in January?
Our scribes dive into those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.
1. Tiger's MDF -- a complete aberration or something he should be concerned about?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Complete aberration. Call me if he doesn't have a top-5 finish by the time he reaches the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Then I'll be concerned. Of course, we saw what a long plane ride did to Phil Mickelson's back this week. Woods better stay hydrated and stretched when he gets to Dubai. But think of it this way: If Tiger's first win doesn't come until Augusta, you think he'll be OK with that? Me, too.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: It's just one event. When 79s become a trend in his game, he's got significant problems and expect a midseason swing change.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. It's just one tournament, at the beginning of the year, so it's hard to be too concerned. But it's not an aberration in the sense that this sort of thing can happen if you are not sharp. Tiger was far from sharp at Torrey Pines.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: It's more aberration than anything else. The competitive rust was clearly there in his first start of the season. We should expect more of this as he gets older. It doesn't mean he won't turn around and win this week in Dubai, but I suspect that as Woods ages, we'll see performances like this more often.
2. What kept anyone from emerging from the pack Sunday at Torrey Pines?
Collins: The rough. The fairways are tough to hit anyway, but this year, if you missed them, it was almost as penal as the U.S. Open. Mix that with poa annua greens that can be tough to read, plus tough hole locations, and there just wasn't a 65 out there. Only five guys bested a 69 on Sunday, with 66 being the best. And K.J. Choi's 66 moved him up 25 spots on the leaderboard!
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Evans: The South Course played really difficult this week, but K.J. Choi did manage a 6-under 66 in the final round to jump from 27th to a tie for second.
Harig: The difficulty of the course. While it was softened some Sunday and pin positions were in easier spots than Saturday, it still didn't lend itself to going low. And not a single player managed a bogey-free round.
Maguire: The course conditions. The Humana Challenge birdie fest it was not. It seemed like there was a cap on the leaderboard for most of the day at 8 under, only flipped open by eventual winner Scott Stallings with a birdie on No. 18. Not the most exhilarating golf imaginable by any means.
3. Thumbs up or thumbs down to how Torrey Pines' South Course played this week?
Collins: Thumbs up. We're 10 tournaments into the new wraparound season and the guys who are not ready for a tough test of golf need only look in the mirror. Am I supposed to feel sorry about the course playing tough? As much as I love the Humana event, I don't want every week to be a cake walk, either.
Evans: Thumbs up. Nine under par is a great winning score. I wish all tour events were this demanding and fair.
Harig: Thumbs down. There was not a breath of wind on Saturday and yet conditions were brutal. Hard greens, tough pins and very thick rough, especially around the greens. There's nothing wrong with a tough setup, but Torrey's South Course is already long, and the difficult rough took away the skill factor. This is not the place to seek tough scoring conditions.
Maguire: Thumbs down. Torrey Pines played more like the U.S. Open venue it was in 2008 than the yearly PGA Tour stop it is. We get those course conditions once a year and the novelty is great, but having the top players in the game struggle to muscle it out of the rough just isn't fun to watch ... unless it's a major.
4. Who was the biggest surprise top-10 finisher at the Farmers Insurance Open?
Collins: Justin Thomas was the surprise. He was playing on a sponsor's invitation and had missed the cut the previous week at the Humana. He finished 32nd at the Web.com Q-school finals and followed that up with an MDF at the Frys.com Open. Nothing for him was trending toward a top-10 at a course this tough. That's why we love this game.
Evans: Will MacKenzie. Back full-time on the regular tour after two years on the Web.com Tour, the 39-year-old two-time winner took a tie for seventh, his second top-10 of the new wraparound season.
Farmers Insurance Leaderboard
1. Stallings (-9)
T-2. Choi (-8)
T-2. Day (-8)
T-2. Delaet (-8)
T-2. Perez (-8)
T-2. Leishman (-8)
• Complete scores
Harig: Ryo Ishikawa. The Japanese star who had to go to the Web.com Tour Finals last year has mostly struggled on the PGA Tour, but he was in contention on Sunday and came up 2 shots short in a tie for seventh.
Maguire: There are many candidates to choose from, but former Masters champion Trevor Immelman gets my vote. The South African shot 7 over last week at the Humana Challenge to miss the cut at a tournament where 28 under won. His best finish in the 2013-14 wraparound season is T-20 and he MC'd in three of five starts. Maybe he found something that will turn his fortunes around for the rest of the year.