THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Decisions, decisions, decisions.
After wrapping up disappointing weeks at the Zozo Championship at Sherwood on a soggy Sunday north of Los Angeles, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson turned their attention to the Masters in November.
The itineraries of the two men who have won eight green jackets and 20 majors between them are far from chiseled in stone. Both could put a peg in the ground in the Vivant Houston Open the week before the Masters. Both could take the next two weeks off. Mickelson might even play in a PGA Tour Champions event.
What is finalized is that neither will play a competitive round this coming week.
On Sunday, their play matched the grey, listless skies above. Playing together for the 38th time as professionals, neither got any momentum going; both hit into a water hazard. Woods birdied the last to shoot 2-over-par 74, Mickelson a 78. Adam Long, the third member in the group, shot 71.
“The only thing I can take out of this week that I did positively I feel like each and every day and pretty much every hole is I putted well,” said Woods, the defending champion who finished with rounds of 76-66-71-74 and 22 shots behind winner Patrick Cantlay. The 76 and 74 were two of the three worst rounds he’s ever shot at Sherwood in 52 rounds. He won five times here and finished runner-up five times in 12 starts heading into this week. “I feel like I rolled it great. Unfortunately, most of them were for pars and a couple for bogeys here and there, but not enough for birdies.”
Woods has just one top-10 this year in eight starts.
“Work needs to be done,” said Joe LaCava, Woods’ caddie. “Good news is he’s not afraid of hard work. It all needs work. And he realizes that. Nothing was really bad, but nothing was really sharp.
“The biggest positive is he felt pretty decent each and every day. And after the rounds he still felt pretty strong. And those were 5-hour rounds, tough, soft walks. That’s a good sign. He’s certainly feeling better than the last stretch from the PGA Championship through the U.S. Open. And that, in turn, will allow him to practice. Now, he still has to put the time in and work at it. Which he will.”
Woods said he will consider playing the Houston Open, but he’s never played the week before the Masters in 20 starts there as a professional. Yes, he needs competitive reps, but he likely will find it more beneficial to work at home.
“We were talking about that this morning, our progression and our training sessions, and we’ll be in the gym tomorrow afternoon and get back after it that way,” Woods said. “But I’ll make a decision quickly on whether or not I’m going to play Houston or not.”
What he does know is Augusta National. And he knows what he’ll need there to successfully defending his 2019 title when he won his fifth green jacket.
“Each and every year same thing, hitting the ball high draws, making sure I can hit a high draw anytime I want,” he said. “There are a few holes like 10 and 13, a little bit on 14, depends on the conditions, but it’s so advantageous to hit a high draw.
“That’s always been my game plan ever since I was an amateur.”
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 25, 2020
Mickelson posted rounds of 72-74-67-78 to finish at 6 over. While he has three top-3s on the PGA Tour this year in 15 starts, he’s missed seven cuts and finished worse than a tie for 41st on five occasions.
He has won both of his starts on the senior circuit.
“Disappointing week, but fun,” Mickelson said. “I love the golf course and got a few things out of the week. I have some pretty good direction on where I need to go with my game and I’ll take this week to work on it.”
Mickelson said he will talk with his wife, Amy, to decided if he’ll play the Houston Open at Memorial Park or head to Arizona for the PGA Tour Champions’ Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Phoenix Country Club.
Mickelson said he’s concerned, despite the PGA Tour’s highly successful protocols to deal with COVID-19, about the Houston Open’s decision to allow 2,000 fans per day on site. That might send him westward unless the Champions’ event allows spectators. If both allow fans, he’ll likely play Houston.
“I’ll see what course is best to get ready and I’ll do that,” he said. “But this week I’ll take to work on a couple of things and, you know, see if I can get my game sharper. I need to be much more disciplined out here. Obviously I’m making way too many mistakes and big numbers and penalty strokes and so forth, and the Champions Tour is a little bit more forgiving, you can recover a little bit easier, pins aren’t as penalizing.
“So I certainly enjoy that style of play because I can play aggressive and it’s more comparable to the way Augusta is because Augusta allows you to recover a number of times if you hit less‑than‑perfect shots.”