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Lusetich: Spieth looks like Tiger of old; Tiger just looks old
The future of golf went up against its past on a cloudy Friday at Torrey Pines, and there would be no turning back of clocks.
Spieth fired a 9-under par 63 on the tamer North course to claim the halfway lead at the Farmers Insurance Open while his playing companion was left to bemoan bad luck and make the cut — at an event he’s won seven times — by a single stroke.
“The kid's got talent,” Woods, 38, said of the 20-year-old Texan.
“He hits it a long way, phenomenal putter.
“He made a boatload of putts today from the 10- to 20-foot range and that's on poa (annua) greens, that's not easy to do.
“But he was pouring them in there. He had speed to them, too.
“He putted with a lot of confidence.”
There may just have been a tinge of envy in Woods’ words.
Who else used to roll them in from 20 feet on bumpy greens where three-footers weren’t safe?
“He didn’t make a lot of putts today,” Spieth said of Woods.
And, yes, Spieth acknowledged he did hit a few too firmly.
But there’s an abandon in youth.
So what if the putt rolls three feet by?
“I was really confident, and I was feeling good with the putter,” Spieth said with a shrug.
I asked Woods if he remembered being young and banging in putts.
“You haven't experienced enough yet, you know?” he said.
“When you get out there and the more years go on, the more you say, you know, where's Indio, or where's Pacific or where's Atlantic, it's got to be breaking that way.
“Things of that nature do start happening as you get a little bit older.”
Until one day you’re Johnny Miller and you end up in the booth.
Woods isn’t there, of course, but Spieth is an eternity from such dark places.
His is a star rising at incredible speed.
It was here, last year, that he made his debut as a professional.
He was nervous and missed the cut by two shots.
Since then he’s finished second four times, won, and was part of the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup team.
“It seems like three or four years ago, it really does with all of last year, what it encompassed,” he said.
There’s a confidence to Spieth, but he manages to avoid the trap of cockiness that befalls many young prodigious talents.
When he said he “wasn't intimidated by any means” in being paired — for the first time in a tournament — with Woods, it wasn’t a slight on the world No. 1.
“I grew up watching him, obviously, just like I did with a lot of these veterans out here, so I've idolized him, watched him win majors,” he said.
“It's exciting to finally be paired with him, (but) we played a practice round at the Presidents Cup and spent a good amount of time (together), so it wasn't like the first time I ever met him.”
When he says his goal is to break all of Woods’ records, it’s a reflection of his desire to be the best.
And he knows what a daunting task Woods has left him.
“It's a joke to be honest, 79 (career wins),” he said of Woods’ career total on the PGA Tour.
“I mean, after winning once I've got four seconds; it's not easy to win, not easy to close out even if you do play well enough to get to the top of the leaderboard in the final round.”
Woods, meanwhile, knows he will need something absurdly special if he is to win a ninth professional tournament (he also won the 2008 US Open here) at Torrey Pines.
On Friday, he needed something in the mid-60s on the North and could only muster a one-under-par 71.
Astonishingly, he played the eight par fives over the first two days in one over.
Last year, when he won, he played them in nine under par through two rounds.
“I wouldn’t say I was rusty,” he said.
“I was a yard off, foot off, all day, and it was one of those frustrating rounds because balls were landing in the fairway, running a foot in the rough and then I couldn't be aggressive, couldn't get after some of these flags and consequently my score reflected that.”
And, he said, he “stubbed my foot by three putting twice out there.”
As is his wont, however, he’s not waving any white flags yet.
“I mean, I've done it before,” he said, recalling he won in 1999 after making the cut on the number.
“I went and shot 62 65.”
Back then he could really roll them in from 20 feet on these bumpy greens.
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