Tiger reflects on Kobe after hearing news after round

Woods, who tied for 9th in San Diego, admired NBA superstar’s competitiv­e focus

- Steve DiMeglio

SAN DIEGO – During the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open, Tiger Woods didn’t understand why so many people in the galleries at Torrey Pines were voicing unusual encouragem­ent.

“Do it for Mamba, do it for Mamba,” he kept hearing.

Just a few moments after walking off the 18th green, Woods came to understand what the chants meant when his caddie, Joe LaCava, told him Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash Sunday morning.

Woods, a huge Lakers fan, admired and respected Bryant. He often talked about how he and Bryant and Yankees great Derek Jeter broke into the profession­al ranks around the same time, how they were about the same age, and how they excelled for 20-plus years as pros.

“When he retired we’d work out at Equinox together,” Woods said. “I was always getting up early, he’d get up early, we’d work out. He liked and enjoyed retired life, but he missed being competitiv­e beyond the court and doing what he did, but it was his time.

“We really connected on more the mental side of it, the prep, how much it takes to be prepared. For me, I don’t have to react like he does in my sport, we can take our time. But you’ve still got to pay attention to the details, and that’s what he did better than probably any other player in NBA history. He paid attention to the details, the little things.”

Woods closed with a 2-under-par 70 Sunday to finish at 9 under and in a tie for ninth. He finished six shots behind winner Marc Leishman, who shot 65 to overtake Jon Rahm, who fell to second.

Woods didn’t talk about golf after his round. Instead, he added a few more comments on Bryant.

“The fire,” Woods said when asked what he remembered about Bryant. “He burned so competitiv­ely hot. He brought it each and every night on both ends of the floor. The hours that he spent in the gym in the offseason and during the summers to work on shots and do all the different things, it looked like it came natural to him on the court during game time, but he spent more hours looking at film and trying to figure out what’s the best way to become better.

“That’s where he and I really connected, because we’re very similar. He came in the league and I turned pro right around the same time and we had our 20-year run together. It’s shocking.

“Life is very fragile as we all know. You can be gone at any given time and we have to appreciate the moments that we have. I just can’t imagine what his family’s going through right now.”

As for his golf, Woods didn’t bag No. 83 in his 2020 debut but he put in a productive week. While his record ninth victory at Torrey Pines eluded him, he got into contention and put in some serious work dialing in his new driver and golf ball.

Woods began his pursuit of the title on the wrong side of par Sunday, missing the green on the first hole of the South Course for a bogey. Looking for a bounce-back birdie, Woods nearly rebounded with a bounce-back eagle. After a solid drive, his approach from 141 yards hopped once and then for a split second disappeare­d into the cup. The ball, however, spun back out of the cup and came to rest 11 inches away for a tapin birdie.

His eagle attempt from 18 feet on the sixth hole burned the edge. Then he missed a birdie chance from 7 feet on the seventh and from 12 feet on the eighth.

Then a three-putt bogey on the 10th from 60 feet dropped him six shots behind the leader and basically ended his chances.

Still, it was a good week of work for Woods. On Tuesday, Woods spent more than 90 minutes on the back of the range banging one golf ball after another to find his “feels” for the driver and ball. And with each passing round, Woods said his feel for both improved.

 ?? ORLANDO RAMIREZ/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Tiger Woods finished tied for ninth in the Farmers Insurance Open, shooting 70 Sunday to finish at 9 under.
ORLANDO RAMIREZ/USA TODAY SPORTS Tiger Woods finished tied for ninth in the Farmers Insurance Open, shooting 70 Sunday to finish at 9 under.

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