Woods couldn't get anything going at the Players Championship, couldn't deliver one of those explosive runs from yesteryear, as one aspect or another of his arsenal continues to let him down.
Rickie Fowler lost a ball in a tree and missed the cut, Phil Mickelson dunked two more balls in the water and headed home instead of to the weekend, and Tiger Woods had another one of those days and likely just barely made the cut.
Not exactly the highlights most people were expecting when the ballyhooed marquee grouping was announced for The Players Championship, the PGA Tour’s showcase event. What looked to be an Oscar contender Thursday morning turned into a two-day bad movie.
For Woods, it was another repeat performance on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. He can’t get anything going, couldn’t deliver one of those explosive runs from yesteryear, as one aspect or another of his arsenal continues to let him down.
In the Farmers Insurance Open in his first start of the year, he barely found the planet with his driver. In the Masters in the first major of the year, he barely found a green with his short irons. In last week’s Wells Fargo Championship, he barely made a putt over 3 feet.
In other words, he has issues to deal with.
“That's golf, unfortunately,” Woods said after signing for a 1-under-par 71 that left him at 1 under through 36 holes and on the cut line. “If we were able to put all of our facets of the game together I think there would be a lot more tournament winners out here. But this is just part of the job.
“We have to figure out a way to put it together, and I have not done that consistently this year so far.”
This week, his short irons are getting the better of him again. Starting on the 10th, he had a sand wedge in and missed the green. On the 11th, he had a sand wedge in and came up 20 feet short. On the 12th, he had a flip sand wedge and knocked it to 15 feet. Three scoring chances, three pars.
“I didn't hit the ball close enough today,” Woods said. “I didn't get off to the start I wanted to. I didn't quite swing it right today, and I didn't quite have the shape, ball flight. I didn't have much of what I wanted.
“With these greens as soft as they are, I didn't take advantage of the opportunities I had today to really shoot a good number.”
Woods didn’t figure it out during the round, either. After making the turn, he had 109 yards to the flag on the fourth and he wedged it into the back bunker. On the ninth, his last hole, he had 110 yards to the pin and hit it to 30 feet.
“I should be hitting them inside flag length, and I didn't do that at all today,” said Woods, who is playing in his eighth tournament this year after coming back from spinal fusion surgery.
While the stats suggest otherwise – he needed 29 putts and he only made 59 feet worth of putts – Woods wasn’t totally displeased with his work on the greens. He lipped out three birdie putts and burned the edge two other times.
“I had good touch with my speed, I just didn't quite read them exactly the best a couple times,” he said. “But I wasn't close enough. I didn't hit the ball close enough. I didn't leave myself many opportunities today.”
He’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future – be it this weekend or not. His good friend, Steve Stricker, who is in contention at 8 under, remains confident Woods will piece his entire game together before the year is out.
“I think he’s just going to keep improving,” Stricker said. “He’s feeling better about his health. He’s able to put in the time. I think he’s still not really happy about the way he’s putting, from what he tells me, and I think when he starts fixing that and playing under the gun more, he’s just only going to get better.
“He’s been away for a long time.”
If Woods does make the cut, he’ll get two more rounds under the gun. And he could make a run despite being double-digits behind – if he puts everything together.
“Well, I’ve got to shoot something in the mid-60s both days to get myself up there to have a chance or something,” he said. “Hopefully give myself some more looks. Feel like I'm putting well. I'm just never inside that range which I should be with the irons I'm having in.”