July 18, 2014

Tiger secures weekend spot despite difficult round

Tiger Woods was hoping for a better start Friday in the second round of the 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Unfortunately, for the 14-time major winner, it didn’t happen.

After bogeying the par-4 first and second holes Thursday, Woods stumbled out of the gate again, making double-bogey at the first and bogey at the second. He steadied until the par-4 17th hole, where he drove out of bounds and produced a triple-bogey. But Tiger rallied at the par-5 18th hole, sinking a clutch birdie putt to shoot 5-over 77 and make the 2-over 146 cut.

“Not very good,” Woods said afterward when asked to describe his play. “I got off to a terrible start again. I had some opportunities to get back to even par for the day and just never made anything.”

Tiger changed his strategy off the tee in the second round, and it mostly backfired. After using only one driver in the first round at the par-5 16th — the same tactic he used in 2006 at Hoylake, when he hit only one driver all week and won by two strokes — Woods used the big stick six times Friday. However, Tiger never hit a fairway and was a combined 6-over on those holes.

 “I was trying to be a little more aggressive,” he said. “With the way the wind was, I could take some of the bunkers out of play and get it down there where I had a sand wedge to the green. Even if it’s in the rough, it’s still a sand wedge to the green. I just didn’t drive it well.”

Playing only his fourth competitive round since undergoing back surgery on March 31, the three-time Open champion was encouraged after Thursday’s round, which left him tied for 10th, three strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy. Woods wasn’t nearly as sharp Friday and gave himself few good birdie chances. The last time he failed to make a birdie in a major championship was in the first round of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Tiger is now tied for 56th and trails McIlroy by 14 strokes after McIlroy carded his second consecutive 66.

“It gives me a chance,” Woods said. “Obviously, I’m pretty far back. Luckily, I’ve got two rounds to go, and hopefully, I can do something like Paul (Lawrie) did in ’99. He made up 10 strokes in one day. Hopefully, I can play well on the weekend and at least give myself a shot at it going into the back nine on Sunday.”

Tiger is hardly surprised by McIlroy’s scorching start. The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland and fellow Nike client has already won two major titles and has been known to run away from fields.

“He’s done this before,” Woods said. “He’s won both of his majors by eight. When he gets going, he can make a lot of birdies.”

A late starter with Angel Cabrera and Henrik Stenson, Woods used a driver off the first tee and pulled it way left. His second shot came up short-right and settled into a bad lie. His third skidded over the left side of the green, and he was unable to get up-and-down.

Tiger pulled his driver again at No. 2 but blocked it way right. Again, he came up short of the green and wound up two-putting for a bogey.

Woods saved par at the par-4 third hole, then hit a nice approach shot to the par-4 fourth, but he missed an eight-foot birdie attempt. At the par-5 fifth, Tiger pushed his drive way right, but caught a good break when the ball settled in a brown, grassy area that had been trampled down by spectators. After hitting a 182-yard iron shot that came up just short of the green, Woods elected to putt from about 50 feet, but ran his eagle bid 20 feet past. He just missed his birdie try and departed with a disappointing par.

Woods parred the next four holes, making a nice save at the par-4 seventh, where he poured in a 25-foot putt, his longest of the day. He made the turn at 3-over 38.

Playing in warm, partly cloudy conditions with little wind, Tiger parred the 10th through 16th holes, extending his string of consecutive pars to 14. But an errant tee shot at No. 17, which barely went out of bounds to the right, proved costly. Initially, Woods didn’t initially know the ball was out of bounds.

“No one gave us any signal,” he said. “It was not until we got down there.”

It was a tough day all around for Tiger, who hit 8 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens. However, he showed his mettle by grinding out the birdie at No. 18. Woods ripped a 3-wood down the fairway, missed the green to the right from 261 yards with a 2-iron, then hit a testy pitch over a bunker about six feet past the pin and made the putt.

Now, he’ll have two days to regroup.

Tiger tees off from No. 10 on Saturday at 6:01 a.m. ET with Jordan Spieth and Rhein Gibson.