Tiger Woods emphatically pumped his first after holing a nine-footer for birdie on the par-5 9th, his final hole on Friday at TPC Sawgrass. The putt was only to post a one-under 71, but it put him just inside the cut line at even par, which is what’s projected to make weekend play at The Players Championship.
“It felt good,” said Woods. “To have to hit the shots on eight, take something off that 4-iron in there and give myself a putt — I hit a beautiful putt, the grain just ate it up at the end. Then playing nine, knowing that I had to make four to at least assure myself to move on, it felt good because I hit a nice drive up the left side, laid up, and you couldn’t ask for a worse number.
“I had 103, which is with normal conditions a 60-degree sand wedge, then you add the wind, now it’s a sand wedge, then you add uphill lie, now we’ve got to hit a pitching wedge. So I choked down on a little pitching wedge, hit a soft cut, held it up against the wind, pin high, so that was nice.”
Woods’ birdie on the last hole ended a turbulent round, which included six birdies and five bogeys. With Tiger only playing in his fourth tournament of the year and his second since finishing T17 at the Masters in April, simply making the cut is adequate for him at the moment.
“I feel like I’m playing well enough to get myself up there,” said Woods. “I just need one good round and narrow up that gap between myself and the lead, and I feel like I can do that.
“Obviously I need tournament golf. My game is finally at a point where I can play tournament golf on a consistent basis. That wasn’t the case early in the year. Wasn’t very good. But I worked my butt off to change it, and I’m pretty proud of that, to be able to show up at Augusta and do what I did, and now I’ve just got to keep building from there.”
Despite his position at the moment (T63), Woods is happy with the way he’s playing.
“I haven’t gotten anything out of my rounds, that’s the thing,” he said. “I should be a few under par each day, and I’m just not capitalizing on my opportunities, and I need to start doing that. I’ve given myself plenty of looks. I’m just not stuffing them in there. I’m hitting them 15 feet when they should be under 10. I need to do a better job of that, getting the ball close, because these greens are slow right now and you can capitalize on the speed of the greens. You can be really aggressive with the putts.”
Woods found nine of 14 fairways for the second day in a row. However, he struggled with his irons, missing many to the left and hitting only 10 of 18 greens in regulation.
“That’s something we’re going to go work on now and try and get that organized,” said Woods. “I worked on it yesterday, got it cleaned up and really played well coming in. Today it was sporadic a little bit. I still need to clean that up.”
Woods, who is eight shots of the clubhouse leader Kevin Na, thinks he still has a shot to contend in the tournament.
“Anyone who makes the cut certainly has a chance on this golf course,” he said. “And then if you put together a good round, you never know what could happen at the end. We’ve seen that over the years.”
Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson, who also played in the morning, will miss the cut after posting scores of 73-76. Mickelson, who won The Players in 2007, was even par for his round heading into the intimidating par-4 18th, his ninth hole of the day, where he made a triple-bogey.
“You know, it’s a tough course. I was thinking to myself as I was walking around, I can’t believe I’ve actually won here,” said Mickelson, according to USA Today. “This is a very penalizing course. I kept hitting it in spots that were impossible recoveries. Certainly the water, that’s a tough recovery. But I would put it in some bad spots this week. I made nine birdies in two days; that’s not bad. But I made quite a few mistakes to shoot 5-over.
“Well, I’m not overly pleased, but I’m not as discouraged as the scores would indicate just for the simple reason that, again, I made 9 birdies. I hit a lot of good shots. It’s just that when I hit bad ones, it led to huge scores. … I really thought I was ready and prepared. I get a little rusty mentally when I take three weeks off and I come out not the sharpest, so I wasn’t too optimistic about going low yesterday. But I thought today I was going to get a good round going. Then I started out birdieing the first hole. I thought that I was going to be off and running, but it didn’t really work out that way.”
World no. 1 Rory McIlroy is still on the course and staying in the running at five-under through 13 holes of his second round at the moment. Rickie Fowler, who was voted as overrated earlier this week, is six-under and bunched up with a group at tied for second.