It appears that a gift of a free drop from PGA Tour rules officials will not be enough to get Tiger Woods to the weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Woods, who shot a 1-over 73 on Friday -- thanks to a bizarre ruling on his back nine that saved him a stroke -- finished his second round at even-par, one shot short of the projected cut line. Should things play out as observers expect them to, it will be only the eighth MC of Woods’ career and the first time he has ever missed the cut twice at the same event. He failed to make it to Saturday play in 2010 in the event formerly called the Quail Hollow Championship.
The top 70 players, plus ties, will play the weekend at Quail Hollow Club. Woods closed out his two-day workweek in a tie for 86th.
Woods, who began the week with an unconventional videotaped Q&A session with fans instead of a routine press conference, likely ended his week with an even weirder occurrence -- a ruling that conjured up memories of his 1999 “Boulder-Gate” final round at the Phoenix Open. In that long-ago case, Woods’ drive on the 13th hole ended up left of the fairway, behind a very large rock that would have impeded his swing.
Back then, rules official Orlando Pope determined that the gargantuan pebble was a loose impediment, which allowed several able-bodied members of Woods’ gallery to huff and puff and push the object out of Woods’ swing path. The escapade even made it into the USGA’s “most talked-about incident” files, which the governing body memorialized 10 years later with a special “10th anniversary” posting.
Friday’s ruling by Mark Russell could overtake Pope’s for its peculiarity. Woods hooked his second shot to the par-5 fifth hole into some trees and, despite a lengthy search-and-rescue mission, never found the ball. A lost ball would have required Woods to incur a penalty stroke and return to the spot from which he hit the shot and try again.
Instead, eyewitness accounts from the fans stationed nearby the clearing that Woods’ ball landed in convinced Russell that some unknown spectator lifted the orb and made away with it.
"Just looking at that area, it’s basically bare ground and trampled down pine needles," Russell said, according to PGATour.com. "If it had been deep mulch or pine needles it would have been a different situation. Based on the evidence there it looked like to me somebody picked up the ball."
So Woods got a free drop, hit his third shot to the green, and two-putted for par. The fortuitous ruling will likely matter little in the long run, since Woods left the course 12 shots behind Nick Watney, who was the clubhouse leader after firing a second-round 64.
Woods, who is slated to play in next week’s Players Championship, was really never in the tourney from the beginning. He struggled mightily with his accuracy off the tee to the tune of hitting 43 percent of his fairways on Friday. His putting was a question mark as well, as he needed 33 short strokes in his second round -- up from the 29 he made when he shot an opening-round 71.
His short game let him down at the end. He chipped to 4 feet on the par-4 eighth but watched his birdie attempt lip out. Absolutely needing a birdie on the par-4 9th, Woods’ approach shot from 180 yards landed well short of the hole. He left the 50-foot putt 5 feet short and had to settle for par.
Woods’ last missed cut was at last year’s PGA Championship, when he shot 77-73.