You can bet that another McIlroy-Woods weekend duel will be dreamed of this coming week as the tour’s South Florida swing heads south to Doral’s Blue Monster.
Golf’s serendipity tends to intervene and reshape fate, though.
It sure did at the Honda.
McIlroy was out in the middle of the second round, mysteriously and strangely. He had been playing badly and abruptly withdrew because (he first said), “I’m not in a good place mentally.” Later, as if he had been reminded that PGA Tour rules state a player may only withdraw for medical/physical reasons, McIlroy suddenly announced he suffered from a sore wisdom tooth. Hmm.
Woods? His teeth were fine, thanks, but his game troubled him a bit. He barely made the cut and then stumbled to a Sunday 74, needing a last-hole eagle just to manage that 4-over par.
“A lost ball and two water balls,” Woods summarized his round. “Penalty shots really added up my score.”
The gallery following Tiger on Sunday was noticeably bigger than the crowd following the leaders, but the throng could not will a miracle rally. Hundreds stood five deep behind a barrier as Tiger emerged from the scorer’s trailer, fans calling for autographs or photos. If Woods’ popularity has diminished, evidence is not readily seen.
Woods’ bland result and McIlroy’s withdrawal with such a dubious excuse — he might have popped an Advil and played through the discomfort, no? — rabbit-punched this event and verified that golfers tend to be unpredictable and tightly strung.
With that in mind it was unsurprising that broad complaint arose this week that golfers were not being allowed to pick up their ball to clean off mud specks. Scandal!
Golfers also famously abhor the slightest ill-timed whir of a camera shutter, of course, which is why fans are prohibited from taking photographs on the course. Of all people, tennis star Serena Williams, who lives nearby, was nabbed this week for sneaking a smart-phone picture of Woods. Security!
The cameras that are just fine were all over Thompson as he celebrated his maiden victory, long lenses recording his personal history.
He had shed some of his anonymity by tying for second place in the 2012 U.S. Open but had not left an 18th green victorious until Sunday. A third-hole par-5 eagle on a 49-foot putt announced his intentions to not fold — appropriately so, considering Thompson happens to be a former Eagle Scout.
Thompson had not finished in the top 75 in any 2013 tournament prior to the Honda, and before this week his mind-set got so low, he thought, “I’m going to miss every cut. I’m going to lose my card.”
Then something magical and impossible to predict happened.