PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Tiger Woods nearly had a second straight free weekend to play some leisurely golf with Rory McIlroy.
But a sand save at No. 17 and a scramble for par at No. 18 on Friday enabled Woods to finish 36 holes at even par — right on the cut line — and stay alive at The Honda Classic.
Earlier, world No. 1 McIlroy withdrew in the middle of his ninth hole, citing a sore wisdom tooth. He and world No. 2 Woods played 36 holes together at Hobe Sound, Fla., last Sunday after both were eliminated in the first round of the Match Play Championship.
Woods advanced to this weekend by parring the par-5 18th hole to post a second straight even-par 70.
“I knew where I was at, but my goal was to get to 2-under with the last five holes to go,” Woods said. “I figured if I shoot 2-under coming in, I’d be in a good spot going into the weekend, and didn’t quite do it.”
The round’s most critical shot appeared to be a sand wedge at the par-3 17th with one foot in the sand and the other on the grass. Woods had been 1 of 8 in sand saves in the tournament before blasting out to within a foot and sinking the putt.
Woods, however, said a chip from just off the cart path at No. 18 tested him more than the sand wedge at 17.
“Actually, the shot at 17 was much easier than I had at 18,” he said. “(The chip at) 18 was a much harder shot, off a downhill lie and muddy with no grass.”
After hitting his tee shot at No. 18 into a bunker, Woods pulled a 5-iron far left of the green. With the ball a few feet off the cart path, Woods chipped well past the hole.
He two-putted from 25 feet for par.
Woods was 1-under when he made the turn, but a double bogey on the par-4 13th hole put him 1-over. He quickly returned to even par with a birdie at the par-4 14th.
“I didn’t quite have my game like I did (Thursday),” Woods said. “I hit it much better yesterday, but I putted better today, so it all evened out.”
At last year’s Honda Classic, Woods fired a final-round 62 to make McIlroy work for the title. A similar low round this year will be difficult if the weather remains cool and cloudy and the course soft and muddy.
“I’ve got to get something going here,” Wood said. “There’s 70-plus guys within nine shots of the lead, just pretty bunched. Anybody in the tournament can win it.”
That doesn’t include McIlroy, whose official reason for withdrawing seemed dubious. He had been struggling with his swing in 2013 after making an equipment switch.
Woods is one person who can relate to being a young athlete and having every action and decision heavily scrutinized.
“You’ve just got to be more … just got to think about it a little bit more before you say something or do something,” Woods said. “It can get out of hand, especially when you get into social media and start Tweeting and all those different things.”