The good news for the golfer formerly known as Tiger Woods were the 28 putts he needed in Thursday’s opening round at The Players Championship. The bad news, however, is that he’ll have to tear up the course at TPC Sawgrass to avoid his second consecutive missed cut.
Woods, who failed to make it past the second round at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship for only the eighth time in his career, saved an ugly par on his 18th hole Thursday to finish with a 2-over 74 and a share of 108th place. That put the former ace three field goals behind Ian Poulter, the leader in the clubhouse at 7-under.
Woods has never missed back-to-back cuts in his professional career. A missed cut Friday, however, would mark the third straight year the former No. 1 would make an early exit from this event. He withdrew from the 2010 and 2011 Players Championships due to injuries.
While he had no blow-up holes (compared, say, with Angel Cabrera’s nine on the par-3 17th), Woods’ closing hole was a microcosm of his day, and, indeed, of his recent play. He yanked his tee shot well left -- a miss he’s been struggling with consistently -- hit his approach shot into a bunker, and had to lay up from a hinky lie. He was able to one-putt after knocking his fourth shot close.
“Just one of those days,” Woods told reporters after his round, during which he struggled again with the par-5s, carding only one birdie. “I haven’t done a very good job of it, I really haven’t, lately. I certainly need to do a better job of it.”
But that just won’t get it done in perfect scoring conditions, when guys like Blake Adams (6-under), Kevin Na and Ben Crane (-5), and a slew of other golfers were going low.
Woods’ less-than-stellar play may have worn off on his playing partners as well. Hunter Mahan matched Woods’ 74, while Rickie Fowler, coming off his first PGA Tour win last week at Quail Hollow, finished at even-par.
As for Woods, he said he would “keep plugging along,” be patient with his game, grab a bite, and then head back to the range.
“I’m going to eat,” he said. “Then I’m going to practice a little bit and work on it a little bit and be ready for tomorrow.”