Tiger Woods got off to a dreadful start after staring Friday’s second round with a bad back. Despite grimacing and gingerly bending like someone more than twice his age, however, the two-time FedEx Cup champion played his way into contention at The Barclays.
“It’s the lower back,” Woods told reporters after posting a 2-under 69 to get to 5-under for the week -- just three strokes behind 36-hole leaders Nick Watney and Sergio Garcia. “Must have slept funny on it. Soft beds at the hotel, woke up this morning with it stiff. As I warmed up, it got progressively worse and you saw what happened on the golf course.
“It hurt all day,” Woods added. “It hurt all day.”
Woods, who out-dueled his young rival, Rory McIlroy (5-under vs. even-par for the week), in their first PGA Tour head-to-head matchup, overcame a bogey-bogey start and ongoing back twinges to play flawless golf for the rest of his round. Indeed, he narrowly missed a closing birdie when his mid-range putt slipped by the hole on 18.
Considering where he was midway through his round, and with Golf Channel analysts wondering not if, but when, he would withdraw due to injury, Woods’ round was downright gritty. The noted golf enthusiast was stretching his quads and hamstrings even before his round began and not only kept going but bettered his first-round stats with a swing that showed little impact from his injury.
“That’s about all I got,” Woods said about a swing that faltered at times but generally looked no worse for the wear and tear on the golfer’s back. “I can’t hit it any harder than that.
“It didn’t feel very good but I got around. Just because the swing didn’t feel very good doesn’t mean I couldn’t make every putt,” said Woods, who need 29 putts on Friday, one more than he used the day before. “I went out there with that kind of mindset and just buried a bunch of putts.”
Woods, who’s no stranger to playing in pain, said that what he felt on the course on Friday bore no resemblance to his performance in the 2008 U.S. Open, which he won while playing on a broken leg.
“There’s a difference between being in pain and being injured,” he explained. “This was just a bit of pain. That [the ’08 Open] was an injury.”
Woods, who said he never once considered quitting the tourney, noted that he had been playing in pain for his entire professional career and before.
“It’s been like this since my first surgery in ’94,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with this stuff since I was 18, had my first cut at Stanford in ’94.”
And while he maintained he was stronger than he used to be and more flexible, he admitted that it took longer to rebound from the bangs and bruises.
“It’s harder to recover, there’s no doubt,” he said.
On his way to the fitness van for some physical therapy after his presser, Woods said he would sleep on the floor Friday night -- as he does frequently when he’s in Europe.
After playing his way into a tie for seventh, Woods left no doubt that he would be on the tee for his Saturday start.
“I’ll be ready by tomorrow,” Woods vowed.