- Associated Press - Monday, January 31, 2011

SAN DIEGO (AP) - The trouble with being so good for so long is that it makes the bad times look even worse.

Tiger Woods never looked worse at Torrey Pines.

One of the more astute assessments about the state of Woods‘ golf game came last year at the Australian Masters. He was paired in the third round with Kieran Pratt, a 22-year-old from Melbourne. A longtime observer noted that one player had won 14 majors among 82 titles around the world, the other was making his pro debut, and you couldn’t tell the difference. Pratt shot a 70. Woods had a 71.

A new year looked a lot like the old one for Woods.

To see him open with a pair of 69s at the Farmers Insurance Open made it appear as though his game was on an upward trend, until recognizing that Anthony Kim was better in each of the two rounds.

Woods was outplayed in the next two rounds by two rookies: Jhonattan Vegas, an emerging star on the PGA Tour who showed no effects of a hangover from winning the previous week at the Bob Hope Classic; and Brendan Steele, who grew up in a California town (Hemet) that didn’t even have a golf course.

Even more surprising is that it took place at Torrey Pines.

No one has had more success on San Diego’s public gem than Woods. He won the Buick Invitational six times, and won the U.S. Open in 2008 on a shattered right leg _ and in his first tournament in two months. But his record runs far deeper. He had never finished out of the top 10, and he had never finished more than four shots behind the winner.

This isn’t the first time Woods has revamped his swing, either.

The first big overhaul was in 1998, and Woods still finished only one shot out of a playoff that year at Torrey Pines. The other reconstruction project was in 2004, and he wound up two shots out of a playoff.

This time, he was a whopping 15 shots out of the lead in a tie for 44th.

Woods failed to break par only one time on the South Course at Torrey Pines in his first 32 rounds in tour events. He shot 74 on Saturday to fall out of the hunt, and 75 on Sunday to fall into irrelevancy.

At least he didn’t finish near the bottom of the pack as he did last summer at Firestone, another course where he has dominated.

Woods was flustered when he finished.

“Absolutely, absolutely,” he said when asked if he was surprised by his scores. “I started out hitting it pretty good out here this week. I really did. And it progressively got worse. We have some things that we need to work on. Sean (Foley) and I have been talking about it every night. I can do it on the range, but it’s a little different when I’ve got to bring it out here.”

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