Tiger Woods rallied after flirting briefly with missing his second consecutive for the first time in his career at The Players Championship, posting a four-under 68 to make the weekend with two shots to spare. He broke 70 for the first time since the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where he captured his first official PGA Tour victory in two-and-one-half years in March, ending a nine-round drought of sub-70 scores.
After an eyelet broke on Tiger’s right shoe on the 5th hole, someone was sent to retrieve the backup pair — well, just the right one — from his locker. Woods had a ho-hum start, with a birdie followed by a bogey through five holes. Then, he changed his shoe on the 6th tee, which must have spurred his streak of four consecutive birdies starting on No. 8. He made some clutch seven-footers, but he also missed a few, too.
I was trying to shoot my number today (66), and I thought that would put me four or five back, and it would have put me four,” said Woods after his round when asked if he felt pressure from the possibility of not missing two cuts in a row. “66 was my number today. I figured that would have been a good way to go into the weekend, being probably four or five back. It would have put me four back. But I’m still with a good chance.”
Woods trails leaders Zach Johnson, Kevin Na and Matt Kuchar, who are tied at eight-under through the halfway mark, by six strokes.
“I probably could have gotten one or two more out of it,” said Tiger. “But I really played well today. I was just very consistent, and nothing spectacular, just real solid golf.”
Asked what part of his game he was most pleased with, Tiger said, “the whole thing.”
He elaborated: “I hit the ball well all day and really putted well today. I had good speed on the greens, and finally what I was seeing and what I was feeling were matching up on speeds, which was good. I misread a few putts out there, which the greens were a little bit grainy this afternoon. So I didn’t give it enough credit on a couple of those putts, but other than that, it was good.”
Despite Tiger’s his positive assessment, he wasn’t exactly a bastion of serenity on the course. He was irked by the number of fans with camera phones, particularly after one clicked in the middle of his backswing during a chip shot on No. 3 in the first round. (I didn’t know camera phones still made clicky sounds. iPhones certainly don’t, or maybe I just have my settings on silent.)
On Friday Woods backed off his tee shot on No. 14 several times due to more run-ins with phones in the gallery.
Honestly, I’m not sure what he’s talking about with all these camera phone incidents. There are obviously a lot of fans with phones since they’re allowed now, but of the 15 or 16 tournaments I’ve been to this year, including six out of Tiger’s seven starts, I haven’t heard any. Then again, I don’t have rabbit ears.
“I backed off a couple times,” said Tiger. “I didn’t quite feel committed to my line; and then I got committed and then the guy took a picture with his camera phone, and I backed off again. It’s kind of the theme the last couple days for all of us in our group, a lot of phones going off. Used to it, and we backed off. I got reset. I was trying to hit just a hard swinging drawdown there, and I just hung it a little bit.”
Apparently, Tiger says it’s the worst it’s ever been, but there have been fans taking out their phones at EVERY event this year, including last week, despite the efforts of the mobile phone task force and volunteers to police it.
More stats: This was only Tiger’s fourth round in the 60s in the last 21 starts at TPC Sawgrass. His ballstriking was the biggest difference. He hit 14 of 18 greens on Friday (compared to 9 of 18 on Thursday) and 10 of 14 fairways (7 of 14 on Thursday). He even putted decently, needing only 28 putts — and he was three-putt free.
Well, glad Tiger will be here for the weekend. Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy missed his third cut in his third start here, so instead of grinding it out on the golf course, he’s going to Rome.
*Update: My bad, the camera clicks were actually a distraction out there. I just have awful hearing, like I said, I don’t have rabbit ears! Apologies calling it an “excuse.” Well, here’s the issue — maybe if the marshals (who are volunteers so cant really blame them) paid more attention to monitoring the phone situation, instead of…eh, never mind. They’re volunteers. At Pebble earlier this year, there was a super intense mobile phone task force.
At the end of the day, if you allow fans to bring in phones, you can’t stop every single person from using it. You can’t control or monitor thousands of people at a golf tournament. Banning phones again would be just about the worst idea/outcome. It’s 2012. The Tour finally realized it’s the 21st century. Look, stupid fans with camera phones that click (when you take a picture), and that’s ruining it for everyone. So it’s pretty simple: Always keep your phone on silent or vibrate. That’s what I do. It’s always on vibrate, aide from thing like, needed to take an important phone call and you don’t want to make sure you don’t miss it. The ringer is a back-up.
There’s a learning curve with fans and knowing that it’s not smart to click in Tiger’s back swing, but the people in the galleries need to be more informed and aware of the rules. There are signs and stuff, but I’m sure people don’t pay them any attention. Fans are also used to taking pictures/videos at all the other sporting events they attend…
(AP Photo/John Raoux)