PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – This month, at least, Tiger Woods has been like most of the PGA Tour’s working class: grinding on Fridays. Cut day. Survive and advance.
This Friday, in particular, seemed an especially important one for Woods. He wasn’t sharp Thursday during an opening 74 at TPC Sawgrass, which was concerning because he wasn’t sharp last week at Quail Hollow, which was concerning because we’re only seven weeks removed from his emphatic, welcome-back victory at Bay Hill. Woods, two shots off the projected cut line entering the second round, never has missed consecutive cuts as a pro … and Friday was cut day.
Survive and advance? Tiger Woods, of course, never has viewed Fridays like that, the way we do. For him, Friday is a day to post a good score – a “number,” as he likes to say – and move into position for the weekend, regardless of his starting point. Woods did that today on a sun-splashed afternoon at The Players Championship, making four consecutive birdies around the turn to shift the topic of conversation from Will he make the cut? to another, far more interesting inquiry: Now, is Tiger poised to make a run?
Asked afterward which aspect of his game he was most pleased with on this particular Friday, Woods said, “The whole thing.” For good reason: With a second-round 68, he went from T-100 to T-30, from nine back to six behind, from afterthought to curiosity.
“I was just very consistent, nothing spectacular,” said Woods, who at 2-under 142 is six shots behind Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Kevin Na. “Just real solid golf.”
And it was exactly the kind of round he needed to keep an incredible streak intact. Never in his illustrious pro career has Woods missed consecutive cuts. Heck, not since 2005 has he failed to play the weekend twice in a season. But after an early exit last week in Charlotte, and a shaky performance Thursday at The Players in which he missed half the fairways and greens en route to a 74, he needed a good round Friday – presumably, something 70 or better – to extend his stay at Camp Ponte Vedra. Had he failed, just imagine the screaming headlines – What’s wrong with Tiger?! – and the scrutiny.
Woods at least got off to a steadier start Friday, save for a strange incident on the front nine, when he ripped an eyelet in his shoe on the fifth hole and swapped out the footwear on No. 6. His run of four consecutive birdies began on the 237-yard eighth, when he hit a 5-wood to 9 feet. Woods then got up-and-down out of a greenside bunker to pick up another shot on 9, and he moved into red figures for the first time this week after a 6-foot birdie putt on 10. On the par-5 11th, he two-putted from 20 feet for birdie.
Said Rickie Fowler, who played with Hunter Mahan and Woods during the first two rounds, “It was fun to see (Tiger) kind of get things going, and it looked like he freed up a little bit and started playing some golf.” That’s not an easy thing, playing “freed up” when there still is uncertainty about whether you’ll be around for the weekend.
Woods had a number in mind Friday – 66 – and it had nothing to do with the cut line. Consider how he handled the par-5 16th. He hit his tee shot into the pine needles left. That left him with a decision. A tree was directly in front of him, with water right and more trees left, so he needed to decide whether to play safely up the middle of the fairway, leaving a short-iron approach, or take on the water and get as close to the green as he could.
At 1 under par for the tournament, he was just one shot above the projected cut line. Woods, though, opted for a 3-iron and hit a brilliant draw that started some 20 yards right over the water and ended up just in front of the green, leaving an easy pitch to set up birdie. The water, the cut line, the screaming headlines, the scrutiny … in that moment, it never really entered Woods’ mind.
This, it turns out, was no day to survive and advance at TPC Sawgrass. For Woods, it always has been about giving himself a chance.
– Ryan Lavner
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See how his round unfolded with our Tiger Tracker (compiled by our Golfweek staff):
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No. 18, Par 4, 447 yards
Going into the final hole, Tiger is 2 under for the tournament. Despite much chatter about a potential missed cut, Tiger’s now got a two-shot cushion; the cut is virtually a non-issue.
• Off the tee: Tiger hits a low draw with his 5-wood about 270 yards, leaving himself with about 180 yards to the green.
• Approach shot: Tiger’s ball hits the green and feeds down to the hole, leaving him with a chance for birdie.
• On the green: Tiger’s left-to-right slider just misses the hole. With a par on the hole, Tiger finishes off a successful day at 4-under 68 and avoids a missed cut.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 4 under (thru 18 holes)
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No. 17, Par 3, 137 yards
• Off the tee: Tiger hits the green, but his ball rolls off the green to the fringe, just shy of flirting with a watery fate. Tiger appears pretty nonchalant about his luck.
• On the green: Tiger’s birdie attempt has a good line but too much speed and rolls past the hole. He leaves himself with a little work, just inside four feet, but saves par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 4 under (thru 17 holes)
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No. 16, Par 5, 507 yards
With just a one-shot cushion to make the cut, Tiger will want to make another birdie for insurance.
• Off the tee: Tiger hits a fairway wood off the tee, landing in trees to the left side and leaving himself in a dicey position.
• Second shot: Hitting out of the pine straw, with water in play, Tiger doesn’t have much of a line. If he goes for the green, water is a factor, but even laying up is a precarious task. He sets up to the right and draws the ball just a bit. The ball grazes a tree and lands right in front of the green – a risky shot that paid off well for Tiger.
• Approach shot: Tiger’s chip shot has a good line, but a little too much speed and leaves him with several yards for birdie.
• On the green: Tiger capitalizes on another par 5, making his third par-5 birdie on the day.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 4 under (thru 16 holes)
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No. 15, Par 4, 449 yards
• Off the tee: Tiger pulls out driver and hits it down the left side, cutting the ball a bit but landing in the fairway.
• Approach shot: Tiger hits a wedge onto the green to several yards away from the hole.
• On the green: Tiger’s birdie attempt breaks sharply to from right to left. With a couple feet to save par, Tiger’s putt lands in the center of the cup.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 3 under (thru 15 holes)
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No. 14, Par 4, 467 yards
• Off the tee: Tiger’s drive lands in the rough, sitting down in 3-inch thick rough.
• Approach shot: Faced with a tough lie on a severe side slope above his feet, Tiger gouges out the ball and immediately yells, “Bite bite bite, please bite,” as his ball runs off to the back of the green.
• On the green: Tiger’s putt finishes several yards above the hole. He misses his par putt and leaves himself with a little bit of work left for bogey, which he makes.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 3 under (thru 14 holes)
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No. 13, Par 3, 181 yards
Tiger’s run of four straight birdies has taken the question of whether he’ll miss the cut off the table. Barring a watery meltdown coming in, he will likely make this cut, as he is currently 2 under for the tournament.
• Off the tee: Tiger hits 7-iron onto the green, but his ball was about a foot from catching the slope and running down to within a few feet. He will have a long, quick putt for his birdie try.
• On the green: Another inch and Tiger would have holed his lengthy birdie putt. Instead he makes par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 4 under (thru 13 holes)
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No. 12, Par 4, 358 yards
• Off the tee: This short par 4 is more about position than length. Tiger holds his line right up the fairway, leaving himself in good position.
• Approach shot: With a wedge shot that gets the ball on the green, just several yards from the hole, Tiger is looking at a chance for a fifth-consecutive birdie.
• On the green: Tiger’s left-to-right slider doesn’t break enough and rolls just past the hole on the left. He makes his short putt for par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 4 under (thru 12 holes)
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No. 11, Par 5, 535 yards
With three straight birdies, Tiger’s finally stirring up some momentum. And with a good drive, Tiger could increase the inertia and reach the 11th green in two.
• Off the tee: Tiger’s lands in the fairway.
• Second shot: Tiger takes his 4-iron and plays a big cut. His ball hits on the green and rolls just off to the left-fringe, in good position for an up-and-down birdie.
• On the green: Putting from just off the green, Tiger leaves his ball about a foot away. He makes his birdie putt, garnering a fourth consecutive birdie.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 4 under (thru 11 holes)
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No. 10, Par 4, 424 yards
With a birdie on No. 9, Tiger has battled his way back to even for the tournament. He faces a difficult back nine with wind and water, but birdies could put him in contention.
• Off the tee: Tiger hits a fairway wood off the tee.
• Approach shot: Tiger’s iron shot lands on the green, close enough to roll in another birdie. He’s right on the cut line, so a birdie would change the whole tone of this round.
• On the green: Tiger, in a stretch of holes where he’s under par for the first time all week, makes a birdie.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 3 under (thru 10 holes)
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No. 9, Par 5, 583 yards
• Off the tee: The wind has died down, and the best angle off the tee is to drive it as far right as possible without going into the water. Tiger’s drive starts out to the left and moves slightly right, landing in the fairway.
• Off the tee: There’s a huge tree between Tiger’s ball and the green. He chooses to take a line up and across, but lands in a bunker to the left of the green.
• Around the green: He doesn’t have much green to work with so a delicate little bunker shot is imperative. He splashes it out, landing just past the hole.
• On the green: Tiger makes the birdie putt.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 2 under (thru 9 holes)
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No. 8, Par 3, 219 yards
• Off the tee: Illustrating how long this par 3 hole is playing into the wind, Tiger hits a choked-down 5-wood. His ball lands on the left fringe but then comes down to several feet from the hole. A birdie on No. 8 would essentially equate to picking up a stroke and a half on the field, as this is a hole that hasn’t been generous with the birdies.
• On the green: Tiger holes his putt, making his second birdie of the day.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under (thru 8 holes)
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No. 7, Par 4, 442 yards
The cut line’s at even par, but at 2 over for the tournament, Tiger still has plenty of holes left to catch up.
• Off the tee: Tiger hits his first driver of the day at the into-the-wind par 4. He busts the drive down the left side with a draw.
• Second shot: From 120 yards, Tiger has a perfect angle just to the left of the hole. But he ends up coming up short of the green. With such a short club in, Tiger should have given himself a better look, even if he does make par.
• Around the green:Tiger needs to get this up and down. His short chip shot lands close to the hole and he saves par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even (thru 7 holes)
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No. 6, Par 4, 393 yards
Tiger went birdie-bogey on the previous two hole, turning his round into a bit of a roller coaster.
• Off the tee: Tiger hits an iron down the middle of the fairway. With a good wedge shot to the green, hole No. 6 could present another good birdie chance.
• Approach shot: With the wind whipping up, it’s getting hard to judge shots. Tiger’s wedge shot lands on top of the ridge in the front of the green, leaving Tiger with a lengthy birdie putt.
Still standing in the fairway, Tiger changes his right shoe after security was called in to bring him another pair due to a broken shoe lace.
• On the green: Tiger’s putt comes a little left, and runs out just short of the hole.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even (thru 6 holes)
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No. 5, Par 4, 466 yards
At 1 under for the day, Tiger is now closer to the cut line, in a tie for 76. Low 70 and ties will make the cut, so if he remains consistent, playing the rest of the day at 1 under, it is he could make the cut.
• Off the tee: Tiger had something good going on the previous hole, but then flounders as his drive lands near a fairway bunker to the right of the fairway.
• Second shot: With 178 yards, Tiger has a tough downhill lie. He does the best he can, given the bad stance he had. He gets the ball out of a tough position and landing in the rough on the left side of the fairway. He could have easily hurt his Achilles tendon again, so the fact that he ran out of the bunker is a good sign.
• Approach shot: Tiger pitches up to the green. He flies it a little too low and the ball rolls several yards behind the hole.
• On the green: Tiger’s slightly downhill putt doesn’t have enough juice. It runs out several inches in front of the hole, and Tiger makes a bogey.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even (thru 5 holes)
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No. 4, Par 4, 384 yards
• Off the tee: Tiger finds the fairway with his 3-wood, putting himself in good position to seize a birdie opportunity.
• Approach shot: Tiger’s ball lands on the green, about six and a half feet from the hole. He’s looking at a fast downhill putt.
• On the green: Putting from above the hole, Tiger holes out and makes his first birdie of the day.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under (thru 4 holes)
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No. 3, Par 3, 177 yards
Tiger felt comfortable over this tee shot yesterday
• Off the tee: Tiger hits a beautiful iron shot right at the flag, landing on the green several feet from the hole.
• On the green: After watching playing competitor Huner Mahan’s putt break just to the left, Tiger gets a good idea of the line for his own putt. However, his ball doesn’t break, and he fails to capitalize on another birdie.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even (thru 3 holes)
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No. 2, Par 5, 532 yards
Tiger’s even start is an improvement on his 1-over start yesterday. He will need to capitalize on the par fives today, as he only made one birdie on the par fives yesterday (on this hole).
• Off the tee: Tiger tees it up on the right hand side but will need a draw. He aims left and hits a quick, low draw. He had the right idea but didn’t execute correctly. His ball is buried in the rough but he should be able to reach the green in two.
• Second shot: Framed by a massive gallery, with 277 yards to the hole and 255 yards to the front of the green, Tiger hits 5-wood. He pulls it up the left side, just where he didn’t want to go, and lands in the front-left rough.
• Approach shot: Tiger’s near the bunker he was in yesterday, in the front left rough. He has a decent lie, but his ball hops over a ridge in the green and leaves him with a very difficult two-putt.
• On the green: He makes a good attempt as his putt slides just past the right side of the hole. The second hole has been playing easy for most of the field, so Tiger misses a big opportunity to get something going and make a birdie.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even (thru 2 holes)
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No. 1, Par 4, 392 yards
Today, Tiger starts on the front nine, on a hole he bogeyed yesterday. He’s met with bright blue skies as he begins the day at 2 over. Tiger may currently be T-92, but a solid round today could keep him on the right side of the cut line. Given that the wind will dry out the greens this afternoon, conditions are growing difficult; a 70 would be a good score.
• Off the tee: Tiger hits 3-wood off the tee, low and left, but manages to find the fairway.
• Second shot: With 137 yards to the hole, Tiger can’t go to the right. He lands his shot on the green near the hole, but his ball hits one of the infamous Pete Dye ridges and rolls several feet farther to the right of the hole.
• On the green: There’s a firmness to the green that was not there yesterday – and they’re becoming firmer by the minute. Tiger’s birdie putt has a good, slightly uphill line, but breaks left several inches before the hole, leaving him with a short tap-in for par. While Tiger appears upset that he missed his birdie, his play on hole No. 1 today is an improvement over yesterday’s round.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even (thru 1 hole)
• • •
Bradley, Simpson face turbulent rounds
While Matt Kuchar’s solid play put him in a share of the lead at The Players, playing competitors Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson were swirling storms around Kuchar’s serenity. Story.
Notes: Harman makes cut, Stricker doesn’t
Players Championship notebook: Brian Harman will be playing the weekend at the Players, while a familiar weekend warrior, Steve Stricker, will not. Story.
McIlroy is 0-for-3 in Players cuts made
Rory McIlroy, a victim of TPC Sawgrass’ visual trickery, misses his first cut in more than a year at the Players Championship. Story.
Curtis, 5 under at Players, evades media attention
At 5 under, Ben Curtis may be in contention at The Players, but he fails to garner the media attention of “personalities” like Rory McIlroy. That’s okay with Curtis though, who’s content focusing on the numbers . . . and for Curtis, those numbers are favorable. Story.
• • •
Big-name players fail to reach top of leaderboard
The Players Championship has one of the year’s best fields . . . but that fact wasn’t apparent looking at today’s leaderboard. Story.
• • •
A rested Adam Scott fires opening 68
Adam Scott, proving that his sparse tournament schedule is working for him, shot what appeared to be an effortless 4-under 68 to get into a share of sixth in the opening round of The Players Championship. Story.
• • •
Simon Dyson withdraws from Players Championship
Simon Dyson joins D.A. Points, Paul Casey, Hunter Haas and Angel Cabrera, as the Englishman withdrew due to a “sharp, shooting pain” from his hip all the way down the leg. Story.
• • •
Notebook: Gary Woodland retuns to action at Players Championship
Players Championship notes: Gary Woodland returns to action after injury at Masters, while Thursday morning’s featured pairing didn’t provide the fireworks fans were hoping for. Notebook.
• • •
Brian Harman squeezes into Players Championship field
Despite originally being left out of the Players Championship after D.A. Points withdrew due to back spasms, first alternate Brian Harman was let into the field and shot a 1-over 73 Thursday. Story.
• • •
Blake Adams fires 6-under 66, one shot off Players Championship lead
Blake Adams contending at the Players Championship would be surprising because he is physically a mess. He shot 6-under 66 Thursday. Story.
• • •
Tiger Woods fires a 2-over 74 in first round of Players Championship
Coming off a missed cut, Tiger Woods still was out of sorts Thursday at The Players. He shot 74 and will need a good round Friday to avoid missing consecutive cuts for the first time as a pro. Story.
• • •
Augusta National’s power forces Tim Finchem to fold
Tim Finchem said that the PGA Tour will not remove the Masters as a tournament on its schedule despite Augusta’s all-male membership. And, while Jeff Rude doesn’t like it, he understands it. Story.
• • •
Luke Donald a favorite among fantasy panel
Fantasy Tip Sheet: In the back-and-forth world of the World Golf Rankings, at least two of our panelists think that Luke Donald will get back to No. 1 with a win at TPC Sawgrass this weekend. Fantasy tips.
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Tiger Woods hopes to stick around for the weekend
Tiger Woods is about the only person not in a panic about his game. But these remain curious times for the guy trying to show he can still dominate golf as he once did. Story.
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Players Championship tee times and pairings
Check out the first- and second-round tee times and pairings at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Tee times.
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First-timers will have hands fulls with subtle Sawgrass
Sang-Moon Bae, Bud Cauley and David Mathis are three of 16 first-time participants at the Players Championship, and each will be challenged by TPC Sawgrass’ subtle design. Story.
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Mark Brooks gets another shot at a TPC Sawgrass loop
Thirty years later, Mark Brooks finds himself back on the bag, this time as the caddie for J.J. Henry at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Story.
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Gary Player receives PGA Tour’s Lifetime Achievement Award
Gary Player has traveled to all corners of the world and it led him to the Tour’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Story.