Pros advice

Monday finish for Day and Noren after marathon play-off

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Jason Day and Alex Noren couldn't be separated after five play-off holes while Tiger Woods ground out a 72 as he completed his comeback.

What happened at the Farmers Insurance Open?

Away from the Tiger Woods comeback show (see Talking point) there was a fascinating shoot-out at Torrey Pines as Jason Day and Alex Noren matched each other shot for shot in a play-off, so much so that they will have to return in the morning to decide the winner.

In a three-man play-off Noren spun one back down to kick-in distance which meant Day and Ryan Palmer had to match his birdie. Palmer’s wedge was wide and his putt never threatening but Day knocked his 10 footer straight in the middle. And then it was two.

This time around both players found the green, Day playing a brilliant iron from the first cut to 15 feet, but the result was the same, a pair of birdies.

On to the par-3 16th where Day missed a 10-footer, Noren two-putting from three times that distance, which took them to the par-4 17th and another pair of pars despite both finding the sand off the tee. The Aussie’s putt came up one roll shy of ending it in style while Noren knocked it in from three feet.

It finally looked like going in Noren’s favour after he found the green with his hybrid from 240 yards but Day, having found sand off the tee, wedged to eight feet and holed yet another nerveless putt in almost darkness.

Coming down the stretch in regulation play there was a four-way tie at 11 under but then Noren, Palmer and JB Holmes all made a mess of the 14th while up ahead Day was bogeying the 15th.

Day’s back was so bad that he had to pull out of the pro-am and could hardly line up a putt on Thursday but then found his game and some pain relief as he then posted a 64. His 70 set the clubhouse target after going out in 32 only to come back in 38 for a four-round aggregate of 10 under.

Holmes added back-to-back bogeys at 15 and 16 to leave himself needing an eagle to tie with Day. After an age he finally pulled the trigger… on a wedge after putting the fairway wood back in the bag. The lay-up finished in the rough and while he made a birdie he came up one shot short.

But Palmer, who also bogeyed 15 and needed a closing birdie, played a delightful pitch, using the slope to finish just a few feet away and he joined the play-off.

Noren was a victim of Holmes’ indecision and he changed to a 3-wood from a hybrid at the 18th and overshot the green by such a distance that he had to take a drop off to the side of the green. The Swede gave himself a 15-foot putt for victory, but the putt was too pacey.

Defending champion Jon Rahm looked all set for something special after opening rounds of 68-66 but he then doubled the par-5 18th for 75 and his Sunday was two shots worse as he tumbled down the leaderboard.

Best quote

“The only thing I have is my short game and my heart. That got me through today,” Tiger after hitting three fairways on Saturday and still shooting a two-under 70.

Talking point

Do you really have to ask? After day two Tiger Woods had to birdie his final hole just to make the weekend, after day three he described his play as ‘gross’ and he only hit 17/56 fairways yet there were plenty of positives as he made his long-awaited PGA Tour return.

Given the Hero World Challenge isn’t an official event this was Tiger’s first weekend golf on Tour since the Wyndham in August 2015. He might have spent much of the week trudging off towards the galleries after a two-way miss off the tee but he finished the week admitting that he thought a 65 on Sunday might have given him a chance of victory.

As it was he was round in 72 for a three-under total and with his work around the greens in good order. After all the talk of chyips and ‘release patterns’ there were whispers down in the Bahamas that he was still a bit iffy with some loft in his hands.

This week there was none of that this week and, while the driver was the low point, the short game deserved an A+.

“His short game is probably as good or better than I ever remember it being,” said Saturday playing partner Brandt Snedeker. “The things I look for are: Is he fighting? Is he grinding? Is he doing the short-game stuff? It’s all there. It’s not as far away as I thought it would be not being able to play professional golf for really two years. I was very encouraged by it.”

Another positive was Woods’ ability to hit shots out of the rough – there was no rough in the Bahamas or in Florida at this time of year – the main problem now is how to avoid hitting so many shots from the thick stuff.

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