Tiger faces long odds to contend at Frys
Tiger Woods has never missed consecutive cuts in his professional career.
He avoided that ignomy Friday by rebounding from an untidy opening round at the Frys.com Open with a 3-under par 68 that showed signs of promise.
“I don’t like missing cuts, period,” Woods said afterward.
“If I miss the cut, that means you can’t win the tournament on the weekend.
“I’ve got a shot at it this weekend.”
He does have a shot, albeit a long one.
The old Tiger, the pre-Thanksgiving, 2009 model, might even have been one of the favourites despite being seven shots behind clubhouse leader Paul Casey.
But for this model Tiger Woods, the next two days at CordeValle should be more about fixing the glitches.
Woods played the first two rounds here with Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion.
The South African they call Shrek had only played with Woods once before, at Doral in 2008.
I asked him how Woods’ game had changed in the intervening three years.
“You can see it's close,” Oosthuizen said.
“He's still struggling a bit with the driver, but he's hitting his irons well.
“He hit quite a few amazing iron shots.”
While that was true of both rounds here, what Oosthuizen saw as the biggest difference was at least as telling.
"In 2008, he was making pars from all over the place. Now he's making bogeys easily,” he said.
And that’s what has really derailed Woods over the past two years.
Even with his waywardness, an up-and-down and a made short putt here and there and he’d have won again by now.
His challenge now is to once again find a way to keep bogeys off his card.
On Friday, he began well after an impressive range session. He benefited from a 140-minute fog delay, which allowed him to tee off in beautiful mid-morning sunshine.
He had a near-miss for birdie on his first hole, then, from 236 yards, an iron stuffed to four feet on the par 3. He converted that, but after failing to make four on the next - the par 5 he carelessly double-bogeyed in the first round - came another mistake off the tee from which he failed to recover, resulting in a sloppy bogey.
Woods then reeled off three straight birdies — canning a 23 footer, an eight-footer and a five-footer — but missed a nine-footer for birdie on the next.
The swings were good, not too violent. He seemed in control.
But the demons haven’t been exorcised.
On the 18th — his ninth hole — the choice is to go either right or left because a creek runs through the middle of the fairway. Woods found the creek and, again, a mistake cost him a stroke.
His next tee shot was a wild pull hook with the driver that went all of 160 yards. While his playing partners had wedges into the hole, Woods hit his second shot standing on a cart path with a 3-iron. The shot didn’t make it to the green but the old Tiger would’ve stuck that pitch shot close.
On Friday, he left himself 25 feet. Another bogey.
He was relatively steady from there, two birdies coming in to give him his first made cut since the Masters in April.
After, Woods seemed disappointed.
“The number was 64 today,” he said.
“That was kind of the goal. I figured if I shot 64, I’d probably be between two and four back.”
He repeated that his challenge these days is not to revert to elements of his old “wipey swing” that he had with Hank Haney.
“I get into my old posture, and the way I’m rotating through the ball now, that ball is going to go left, so I just need to get better posture.
“I just get into these lulls where I kind of go back to my old comfort, especially out here when I’m in tournament mode.”
Oosthuizen, for one, thinks it’s far too early to write off Woods.
“Obviously, he's working on a few things and going through a rough patch,” he said, “But he's too good a player not to come back."