With Adam Scott making mincemeat of a soggy Oak Hill Country Club early Friday morning, Tiger Woods could only watch and wait to see how irrelevant he may be when he finally takes the field for his second round.
Scott, a birdie machine in Thursday's opening round, was back at it Friday, putting the eyes out of the ball and leaving even those who went low in the first round in his wake. Ahead by three shots after seven holes, the first Australian to win the Masters back in April was playing with the self-assurance and dead-eye accuracy of a man intent on closing out his second major of the season in true Tiger Woods fashion.
The Tiger of old, that is, since the Woods who shows up in majors these days bears little resemblance to the aggressive, cocksure golfer who regularly wiped the fairways with his opponents on his way to one title after another. That player in 2013, despite uncharacteristically missing a short putt on the par-4 17th hole (his eighth of the day on Friday) for only his second bogey of the tournament, appears to be Scott.
"I felt good out there today," Scott told reporters after shooting a 5-under 65 on Thursday to share the lead with Jim Furyk. "I felt like I could swing freely and I was hitting all the shots that I wanted to hit."
Woods, mouthing similar sentiments despite a 71 on his card that included a sloppy double-bogey on his final hole of the day while Scott made a clutch par save on his last, got off a decent 2-under start on his front nine. After making the turn and being put on the clock for slow play, Tiger seemed completely out of sync.
For sure, Woods, blaming officials with a stopwatch for his woes, looked like a player destined to leave Oak Hill with the onus of yet another missed opportunity to grab that 15th major weighing heavily on his shoulders.
If Adam Scott (-7) goes much deeper, it won't matter what Tiger does.— Matthew Rudy (@RudyWriter) August 9, 2013
"The round, realistically, could have been under par easily," Woods, who was everybody's favorite to win this week after he demolished the field at Firestone, said about a day on which plenty of others took advantage of perfect scoring conditions.
For Woods, who'll start his second round one shot clear of the projected cut line, to get back into the mix, he will likely have to play far more aggressively than his patient game plan called for. With Scott running away with the game, the world No. 1 can't afford to be cautious and hope the field backs up.
"I think he's got to have this mental feeling of coming out and attacking," Colin Montgomerie said on Golf Channel as Scott made the turn at 7-under for the week and a two-shot lead over Furyk. "He's got to narrow that gap and it's becoming a risk to have to attack on a course of this ... difficulty."
Along with taking it to the course, Woods will have to do a better job of finding the fairways, something he did only nine times on Thursday. Because, with rain battering the course Friday morning, David Feherty had a warning for wayward golfers.
"If you're not playing well and you're missing fairways, oh dear," Feherty said on Golf Channel as Scott was playing his outgoing nine holes. "That rough's gonna be like playing out of Donald Trump's hair in the shower ... just wet and tangly and nasty, and there's no such thing as a decent lie."
Barring weather delays, Woods was slated to begin his second round at 1:45 p.m. ET off the first tee.