Tiger Woods got off to a decent start in his second round at Muirfield, but softer conditions seemed to confound the world No. 1 Friday at the British Open.
Woods was not one of the many competitors who moaned about the hard and fast conditions at Muirfield on Thursday, but he was taken aback by the the softer quality of the course on day two.
Tiger, who began the day at 2-under and three shots back of overnight leader Zach Johnson, came up short with approach shots and struggled trying to judge the speed and breaks on several greens at the supposedly user-friendlier Muirfield.
"Oh, it was hard," Woods told ESPN after finishing his even-par round with only his third birdie of the day to get back to 2-under for the tourney. "The greens are totally different speeds. The run-ups were softer and then they started drying out towards the end. All the uphill putts, we never got one to the hole, but then the downhill putts were running out."
Woods noted that as quick as his putts were on Thursday, running some eight to 10 feet past the hole, "that’s what I had up the hill."
"It was just amazing how slow they were up the hills today and they put some water on them," Woods said.
"They" would be the R&A, which announced Friday some changes to the track after Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter and several other players griped incessantly about the impossible pin placements and rock-hard fairways.
"Muirfield’s greens were hand-watered overnight before the second round. The Club’s sprinkler system was not used," the R&A announced Friday. "This morning the greens were double cut at 4mm and first thing in the morning they were running at 10.5 feet on the Stimpmeter as opposed to 11 feet the previous morning.
"The greens are expected to pick up pace during the day but dramatic increases are not anticipated," the statement added. "The watering has not affected the firmness values of the greens which remain the same as during the first round."
While the softer conditions may quiet Mickelson, Poulter, et al, they seemed to confound Woods, who struggled with speed as he was shy on several greens, and had two three-putts.
Tiger doesn't look comfortable on or around the greens. He's grinding so hard on every putt—respect the effort but it's exhausting to watch.— Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) July 19, 2013
On No. 11, for example, Woods came up short of the green from some 130 yards when he failed to get the type of roll that was typical on Thursday. He ended up with a bogey.
Saving par was the order of the day for Woods, who pointed to the 13th as typical of what the morning golfers faced.
"As fast as my putt yesterday was [when he made birdie on the par-3] and I would have gone maybe eight or 10 feet past the hole, that’s what I had up the hill," he said.
Woods got it going early Friday, sandwiching two birdies around a bogey on the front nine. He began giving shots back on No. 8, however, with another bogey, and was unable to make a real dent in Johnson’s lead until a birdie at the last.
Mickelson and Poulter led a chorus of critics Thursday that ripped the R&A for rock-hard course conditions and pin placements they whined were too difficult.
Woods, who went out Thursday afternoon and was among Friday’s morning wave, acknowledged the"fiery" setting after carding a 69 on Thursday, but it did not seem to bother him as much as it did his opponents.
The 14-time major champion will enter the weekend squarely in the hunt for his elusive 15th major title and would pay keen attention to the guys going out Friday afternoon.
"It’s going to get more difficult obviously as the day goes on. Our last five holes it got baked out pretty good and we were surprised at how far the ball was running," Woods said. "It was starting to chase like they did yesterday but the greens are different.
"That’s the hard part of adjusting is that we played the conditions where they were so much faster yesterday afternoon," Woods added, "but they were so much slower this morning."