SAN FRANCISCO — At this stage of Tiger Woods’s profession, unpredictability is as positive a guess as a crimson shirt on Sunday.
Concerns about loosening his surgically repaired back linger over his each look. The much-discussed summer season fog and funky air at T.P.C. Harding Park continually threaten Woods’s capacity to operate with out ache or fatigue. In the previous few years, he’s modified golf membership producers, his model of golf ball and, this week, even his putter. He wore a neck gaiter Thursday, a signal of the pandemic occasions.
A laborious Friday spherical of two-over 72 put Woods at even par for the P.G.A. Championship — tied for 44th, eight photographs behind chief Haotong Li — simply away from the one-over-par minimize line.
His efficiency by way of two rounds have proven how, even with probably the most thought of strategy, nobody is aware of what is going to come from what was once probably the most dependable wager in sports activities: Tiger Woods at a main.
For starters, his Thursday morning spherical was wonderful, a aggressive 68 that regarded contemporary and included a few of his finest placing of the yr — his mixed whole of 114 toes, 9 inches of made putts signaled a season-high. Another signal of the occasions: Woods’s swap to a barely longer putter was made, he stated, partially so he didn’t should bend over as a lot whereas practising.
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From his first swing of the day Friday, a piped 301-yard drive from the primary tee, his again regarded wholesome, maybe a good thing about the afternoon tee time that allowed him to relaxation and heat up. His subsequent swing was sound, although his missed 7-footer for birdie was a disappointment.
Another missed putt, a 12-footer for par on No. 3, which stayed left regardless of Woods’s physique language urging it proper, led to bogey and questions in regards to the blade. They deepened over a missed 9-footer for birdie on the 4th gap after a excellent drive on the par 5. Another missed birdie attempt on No. 5, from 10 toes, left him strolling off the inexperienced, a stern expression etched.
The swap to the brand new putter, celebrated on Thursday, regarded like a curse on Friday.
Woods tried to appease the golf gods with stable ball-striking, hitting six of the primary 9 greens in regulation. Another missed attempt, a 14-footer for par on the troublesome ninth gap confirmed the gods’ callousness. Woods made the flip at a two-over 37, even par for the event. He was on his personal because the minimize line loomed.
“I drove it great today. That’s one of the things I wanted to clean up from yesterday,” Woods stated. “And I really struggled with getting the speed of the greens today. They looked faster than what they were putting.”
Woods lastly sank a nine-footer for his first birdie of the day on No. 10 and saved par on the 12th. Even although no followers are allowed at Harding Park, a die-hard group of two dozen or so followers lined Lake Merced Boulevard by the 12th tee field, peering by way of a fence.
“Even the 12th hole, the tee box there alongside the road, Tiger gets on the tee and everyone goes crazy and you have to wait for them to settle down,” Rory McIlroy, who was paired with Woods and Justin Thomas, stated.
But the momentum didn’t final, as he did not stand up and down out of a bunker at No. 13, lacking one other makeable par save from seven toes.
At this level, Woods’s countenance hid none of his disgust. Woods blew the strategy over the 15th inexperienced for an additional bogey, his physique language teetered alongside along with his weekend standing.
His survival instincts kicked in, although, and a choice to put up off the tee on the brief par-4 16th led to a 12-foot make for birdie, his longest made putt of the day. He’d make the minimize, in any case.
Keen to maximise his budgeted golf swings for a calendar yr, Woods advised reporters earlier within the week that he had been making ready his physique for the main event stretch of the schedule, delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Since internet hosting and enjoying on the Genesis Invitational in February, the place he completed 68th, Woods didn’t play once more till the Memorial Tournament in July, the place one other Friday rally helped him make the minimize on the quantity earlier than ending 46th. The FedEx Cup playoffs fill out August, resulting in the United States Open at Winged Foot in September and the rescheduled Masters simply earlier than Thanksgiving.
Since an emotional 2019 Masters win, Woods missed cuts at two of his subsequent three majors, the 2019 P.G.A. Championship and the 2019 Open Championship, suggesting maybe that the win taxed him each bodily and mentally.
“I celebrated winning the Masters for quite some time,” he stated this week, with a smile.
He arrived forward of the sphere on Sunday for a follow spherical, snug in a area a half-hour drive north of Stanford University, Woods’s alma mater. After rising up enjoying munis in Southern California, Woods regarded nearly at residence when TV cameras caught him altering his footwear within the parking zone earlier than his Friday spherical.
Like a muni duffer, Woods skilled the travails of golf over the subsequent 5 hours. He’d been requested earlier within the week if, given his again and his layoff, can he win? “Of course,” Woods stated.
That view regarded gloomier after an exhausting Friday for Woods and his fellow rivals within the group. McIlroy shot a one-under-par 69, tied for 31st, and Thomas went into the clubhouse with a 70 for the day, one-over-par for the event and simply contained in the minimize. It was clear that Harding Park had labored them to the bone.
“Once Tiger and I got our tee shots off 18,” McIlroy stated, “I just gave him a look like, ‘phew, glad that’s almost done.’”