That notion may seem weird given that he’s won four times already this season — in six stroke play events on the PGA tour — but Woods knows the truth about golf. He’s not going to beat the field every time; sometimes, it’s not his week.
“I haven’t won every tournament I’ve played in,” Woods said with a shrug after scrambling just to make the cut at the Memorial tournament on Friday.
Woods — the defending champion at Muirfield Village — needed a low score to get into the hunt after failing to capitalize on Thursday.
Instead, he lost more ground, turning in what was just his third over-par round on the PGA Tour this season. He hit 13 fairways but his iron play was again spotty while his short game and putting were whatever’s spottier than spotty: a Dalmatian, maybe?
“Tough conditions out there and I didn’t exactly play my best, either,” said a forlorn Woods.
Both assertions were true. Muirfield Village, when the wind whips around like it has been, is no picnic. But he’s won here five times, and managed to master the winds in those years.
A fifth win for the season here, however, is now in the laps of the gods. And beyond the gods, on an earthly level, Woods will need about 50 golfers to get the apple stuck in their throats on the weekend.
It’s not in Woods’ character to give up, so he was searching for ways to get back into the tournament, even if deep down he knows it’s unlikely to happen.
“We don’t know if we’re going to go two tee starts (on Saturday) because the storm is coming in,” he said.
In other words, he needs to go out early on Saturday, shoot something in the mid 60s, and hope the weather gets bad for those ahead of him on the leaderboard. After that he could buy a Powerball lottery ticket.
But enough about the Woods weekend comeback. More interesting is why he’s been so ordinary given the extraordinary run he’s been on.
The tone was set on Thursday with muffed chips and missed putts that turned a round that should’ve been in the 60s to 71.
“I’ve had a hard time with the speed,” Woods admitted.
The greens are faster than they look.
“It was kind of a mental thing I was struggling with out there,” said Woods.
On Friday morning, with the conditions far tamer, Woods needed to get off to a fast start but instead he ended up scrambling for pars.
He failed to birdie his second hole of the day — the par-5 11th — and made bogey at 14, his fourth hole of the morning. The round threatened to derail, however, on the par-5 15th.
Two good shots and this hole’s a two-putt birdie. But Woods butchered it in the first round, making bogey when he came in with a wedge for his third shot, and managed one worse on Friday.
He chipped his ball from the collar, about 15 feet from the cup. It was speedy but caught a piece of the hole. From there, he missed a 5-footer for par, then an 8-footer for bogey.
“It’s not that hard to make bogeys and doubles on this golf course,” he said. “A yard here, a yard there (on) a golf course like this, you can get penalized.”
The situation looked dire enough for scribes to head for the record books, where they discovered that Woods has missed nine cuts in his PGA Tour career (and one on the European Tour, earlier this year in Abu Dhabi).
But Woods made two late birdies to give himself a buffer.
Yet the haplessness of the first two rounds had a fitting finish on the ninth, his final hole. From the middle of the fairway Woods took a wedge from 148 yards. The shot plays well down the hill so it couldn’t be a full wedge.
But Woods barely got over the pond that guards the green. He hit the shot 123 yards. That’s not a small miss.
He tried to flop onto the green from the bank but left his shot in the rough. From there Woods needed to drain a 4-1/2-footer just to save bogey.
“You can shoot a round under par here, you’ve just got to really play well,” he said. Was he disappointed?
“I’m not too disappointed,” he said. “I’m not that far off.”
Maybe that’s a secret of greatness.
To believe you’re never far off, no matter what it looks like.