Tiger Woods’ balky back was the story of the week heading into the first round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Thursday. By the end of round two on Friday, the butt-kicking that the "new" Doral handed Tiger and 67 of his closest friends had stolen the show from the world No. 1.
Woods, with his second-round, smile-inducing 92-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fourth hole, momentarily regained the spotlight. The omnipresent water hazards soaking up golf balls at a record pace, however, had everyone in a bit of a stew.
"I’m smiling because I finished," a wind-blown Graeme McDowell, in the clubhouse at even-par (73-71) and in good shape heading into the weekend just one shot back of four co-leaders after 36 holes, told Golf Channel. "It was brutal out there today."
With balls from all over Donald Trump’s restructured (Deep) Blue Monster kicking off greens and rolling down the steep, shaved banks into the drink, "brutal" was probably an understatement. It was a day that likely had many of the contenders wishing they had pulled a Jason Day (bad thumb) and stayed home.
A lot of players very disappointed that there's no cut this week.— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) March 7, 2014
Patience was the key on a day when Woods deposited three balls into the water in his second round, including a splashdown on the eighth hole after he hit a "perfect" 3-wood that skipped through the fairway and into the drink.
"You've just got to hang around. You just never know," said Woods, who finished just six shots off the lead in day two of his title defense. "We've all got a shot at it now. No one is going anywhere."
Except, perhaps, to the bar for a double, which was the score du jour. The course served up 108 double-bogeys compared with 34 in 2013.
Consider this: Following the stop-and-start opening round, 19 players were under par when they took the field for round two; four -- all with a share of the lead at 1-under -- emerged from the carnage on Friday afternoon in red numbers.
"Just hard," said Zach Johnson, who will enter the weekend at 1-over (70-75). "I recall hitting great shots and three-putting."
Or this: By the time Rory McIlroy (even-par) dropped the final putt of the day, more than 100 balls found watery graves as players and onlookers wondered if they were actually playing in a British Open -- with water.
103 balls hit in the water so far at Doral today during the second round alone. One hundred and three.— Chad Coleman (@HashtagChad) March 7, 2014
"You invite 68 of the world’s best to Doral and Royal Birkdale breaks out," cracked Golf Channel’s Terry Gannon, who noted that the last two times not one PGA Tour player posted a round in the 60s was at the 2008 PGA Championship and in 55-m.p.h. winds in the third round of the 2008 Open Championship.
As if the penal conditions, which yielded a scoring average of 74.0901 (up from 70.731 last year) weren’t enough to contend with, Luke Donald almost lost a ball to a spectator unclear on the concept.
Donald got to take a drop with no penalty, and though he believed architect Gil Hanse -- whom he blasted two years ago over his overhaul of TPC Boston -- had "done a great job" with the redesign, he suggested some holes would require tweaking going forward.
"I’m sure Mr. Trump wanted something pretty hard and a test for a World Golf Championship," Donald said after carding a 76 in the weather-delayed first round. "He wanted something severe, but it’s bordering on unfair on a few holes."
If anyone had reason to carp, it would have been Sergio Garcia -- he of the triple-bogey seven on Friday morning and a quadruple-bogey nine in the afternoon.
The crooked number he posted on the par-4 16th was one for the ages, as Garcia went for the green only to end up with a bad lie in a bunker. Two shots later, his ball sailed off the top of a corporate tent, hit a golf cart and bounced into the water. Yada yada yada -- triple-bogey.
Things got worse for the 34-year-old Spaniard. Some Twitter wise guys dubbed him "El Nine-o" after Garcia began his second round by splashing two drives into the water on the par-5 10th. He needed seven shots to get to the green and two-putted.
All Garcia, who finished the day at 6-over (74-76), could do was chalk it up to a rough day at the office.
So challenging out there today with the wind. Other than two holes I played pretty well. Let's see if we can get back into it tomorrow!— Sergio Garcia (@TheSergioGarcia) March 7, 2014
While it’s back to the grind tomorrow, Woods, whose bad back forced him to withdraw from the final round of last week’s Honda Classic, planned to tend to his aching muscles with some more tender loving care.
"I'm a little bit sore right now. Long day. Long day," he said. "So be nice to get some treatment tonight and be ready for tomorrow."