The Loop

Tiger Woods mourns Charlie Sifford while seeking answers to his game

February 04, 2015

LA JOLLA, Calif. — The trials of Tiger Woods have been compounded by the tribulation of his having lost a man he often called his grandpa. Charlie Sifford, the first African-American to join the PGA Tour, died on Tuesday night.


Instructor Chris Como with Tiger Woods (Getty Images)

"It's been tough. Very tough," Woods said after his abbreviated pro-am round Wednesday, on the eve of the Farmers Insurance Open here. "He's like my grandpa that I never had. And it's been a long night and it's going to be a long few days.

"He fought, and what he did, the courage it took for him to stick with it and be out here and play, I probably wouldn't be here. My dad would never have picked up the game. Who knows if the clause would still exist or not. But he broke it down."

Woods also paid tribute to Sifford via Twitter:

Terrible loss for golf and me personally. My grandfather is gone and we all lost a brave, decent and honorable man. I'll miss u Charlie.

— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) February 4, 2015

Then it was back to work on a game that last week in Phoenix was in need of something more than fine-tuning. Woods was woeful around the greens, shot 73-82 and missed the cut.

"The whole idea is to make sure that I'm ready for Augusta, so I got a lot of rounds to play between now and then," he said. "That's what we're building for and if I happen to play well enough to get into Doral [the WGC-Cadillac Championship], then great, I got four more rounds there. If I don't, then I'm still trying to peak for Augusta."

A fog delay shortened the pro-am to nine holes, none of which he played particularly well. He was accompanied by his new instructor Chris Como, as well as friend Fred Couples, who is in the area for a few days. At the second green, Woods hit as many as 25 chip shots in an effort to restore what once was among the best short games in history.

The rest of his game did not bear any resemblance, either, to that which he had in winning seven times here as a professional, including the 2008 U.S. Open. At the par-5 ninth hole, he hit his second shot well right of the green and did not bother to play it from there.

"I'm caught right in between [swing] patterns," he said, referring, as he did often last week, to his old swing under Sean Foley and his new one under Como. "And when I have to hit shots, I got to shape shots, I'm caught right dead in between. They are so polar opposites, the movement patterns, that when I do half of one or half of the other, it's pretty bad."

Ditto his short game. "The thing is that the pattern that I had with Sean is a totally different release pattern than I'm doing now, he said. "Then that affects the short game. So, my bottom point's different. My impact points are different now. So I've got to find a consistent bottom, but the bottoms are different now.

"It's a process, and Chris and I are working our tails off to try to get this. I want to get this. I want to be ready come Augusta and the rest of the majors, but we still got some work to do."