Tiger falls, but won’t concede

Other guys might accept small victories.

Other guys might view finishing back-to-back rounds for the first time since April without re-aggravating an injury or a lot of ugly numbers on the scorecard as a success.

“I’m not other guys,” snapped Tiger Woods on Friday.

Woods, I suppose, didn’t get to where he was by being realistic about expectations.

Accepting conventional wisdom or settling for what’s reasonable is not for him, as he rigorously made clear to me on Thursday and to a colleague on Friday.

“Why show up at a tournament if you’re not there to win? There’s no reason to come,” he said.

Woods isn’t out of the running in the Bridgestone Invitational, but a second-round 71 wasn’t exactly putting the fear of Tiger into the players at the top of the leaderboard.

His comeback didn’t exactly stall on Friday but it just never got into a high gear.

The culprit, Woods said, was his putter.

“The pins were slightly more difficult, and these greens are getting a little chewed up out there,” he said. “They’re soft … (but) the ball is bouncing a little bit.”

Missing a putt that was barely 2 feet on the 14th seemed to derail him.

After starting the round on the 10th, he’d been even par until then and looked like he was going to avoid a bogey on an errant drive after hitting a sweet wedge from about 90 yards with his third shot.

But Woods said he dragged the putter too far to the inside on the stroke and then tried to compensate but “over-hooked it.”

He made another bogey on the next hole, and while he responded well with back-to-back birdies after that, wasn’t sharp enough on his final nine holes.

Two birdies couldn’t overcome a sloppy bogey on the fourth and a sloppier double bogey on the sixth.

“I didn’t putt as well as I did yesterday, and consequently I just never got the round going,” he said.

But he’s an incurable optimist and, as such, saw great positives in the 1-over-par round.

“I know my stats don’t show it, but just the way I’m driving the golf ball, the start lines are so much tighter, and the shape(s) of the shots are so much tighter,” he said.

“Just like B (his caddie, Byron Bell) and I were talking out there, I’m so close to putting the ball on a string, so it’s coming.”

“I’m close to putting it together.”

Adam Scott, who couldn’t get back in the red numbers on Friday, shooting even par after Thursday’s scintillating 62, is leading Woods by seven shots but isn’t counting any chickens.

“I never write Tiger off,” he said.

“I mean, he has proved almost every critic wrong every time. If they say he can’t do it, he does it.”

But wasn’t that the old Tiger?

And even if he gets back to something approaching what he once was, can any player ever dominate golf like he did again?

“What we saw from 1999, 2000 onwards, for seven or nine years even, it’s hard to believe that it’ll happen again,” the Australian said.

“But he’s the same guy. He can do it.

“For guys who didn’t see it, it’s hard to explain how good he really was playing, especially in the early 2000s.

“He was in a class of his own.

“He hit shots that no one was able to hit and controlled the golf ball better than anyone else. It was remarkable golf.

“I think I was lucky to be around to see that kind of golf.”

But Scott said the difference now is that technology has helped so many players that faults are easier to mask. The ball goes straighter and longer than ever and clubs are built to reduce inefficiencies.

“Technology has changed a lot and I think that works against someone really being that much better,” he said, “It’s certainly leveled the playing field a little bit.”

“But it’s an interesting time in golf, and a lot of guys right now feel like there’s an opportunity to stand up and be that guy.”

He’s one of them.

“This is my opportunity now. Because until someone is that much better, then it’s wide open, really. That’s what I feel like. This is an opportunity for everyone.”