Following a strong first round at the 2014 Open Championship, Tiger Woods failed to capitalize, faltering Friday at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.
Woods shot a five-over 77 in the second round, which was a far cry from his three-under 69 on Thursday. That put him at two over par for the tournament, which was firmly on the cut line when his round ended.
At the conclusion of his round Friday, Woods found himself in a tie for 57th place, which put him 12 strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy. Here is a live look at the leaderboard pecking order as it currently stands:
The windy conditions during the second round caused much of the field to post disappointing scores early in the day. It seemed to affect Woods at certain points, as he hit some wayward shots, but his inability to stick his shots on the green was ultimately his undoing. In the end, his second round played out as follows:
Woods' round couldn't have gotten off to a much worse start Friday. Tiger was way off the mark with his opening tee shot on the first hole as it found its way near the gallery.
He was in such a tough spot that he actually had to hit his second over the crowd, per Ashley Mayo of Golf Digest:
Tiger Woods: "Hey guys, move, I'm gonna hit over your heads." Tiger, he's just like us! #TheOpen— Ashley Mayo (@AshleyKMayo) July 18, 2014
Woods proceeded to hit the ball from deep rough patch to deep rough patch before ultimately settling for a double-bogey six. Things didn't get a lot better for Tiger on the ensuing hole, as he bogeyed the par-four second for the second consecutive day.
According to ESPN's Kevin Negandhi, those initial holes have been his Achilles' heel at the Open Championship thus far:
Tiger Woods after 20 holes at the Open Championship: first 2 holes (+5).. the other 16 (-5)— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) July 18, 2014
Going three-over on the opening two holes left Tiger at even par for the tournament. Much like Thursday's first round, Woods was able to stabilize after a horrendous start. He parred the third and fourth holes, although he missed a golden opportunity by pushing an intermediate birdie putt on the par-four fourth.
Even as Woods started to turn things around a bit, his frustration was evident. Tiger inevitably draws bigger crowds and more attention than any other golfer, which results in more than his fair share of distractions.
With that in mind, Woods lashed out at the fans on more than one occasion while trying to concentrate and hit his shots, per Jason Sobel of GolfChannel.com:
Tiger has spoken more to the fans this week than he has to the media all year. Granted, he's yelling at 'em to move and be quiet. But still.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 18, 2014
After Woods posted another par on the par-five fifth, Sobel made an interesting observation. Tiger's length and accuracy off the tee used to give him a huge advantage over his competition on par-fives, but that hasn't been as evident during his six-year major drought:
Forget injury and scandal and swing changes. The fact that Tiger doesn't dominate par-5s anymore has been greatest impact on performance.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 18, 2014
Tiger's par streak continued on the sixth and seventh holes. His par on the par-four seventh was particularly impressive, as he sunk a long putt from just off the green after a botched chip out of the deep rough.
Following yet another par on the eighth, Woods had an opportunity to card his first birdie of the day on the par-three ninth after a great tee shot. Tiger's putt just didn't have enough steam, though, according to GolfChannel.com's Tiger Tracker, and he ended the front nine on a seven-hole par streak:
Ugh. Right in the heart, but 2-3 rolls short. Tap in par & Tiger turns in +3, still E for the week and STILL in search of 1st birdie today.— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) July 18, 2014
While Woods certainly would have preferred to take advantage of his birdie opportunities on the front nine, the fact that he found a rhythm after the disastrous first two holes was promising. That was especially true since he tore up the back nine during the first round, per Fox Sports Live:
Woods' solid first round was buoyed by what he did on the back nine. Because of that, Tiger entered the second round with a lot of confidence and seemed optimistic that he was truly finding his game for the first time since returning from injury, per ESPN.com's Bob Harig:
I knew I could do it. That's why I was telling you guys it was so important for me to play at Congressional. The fact that I was able to recover every day, and the fact that I was stronger, more explosive the more days I played. I'm only going to get better from that point. And I'm getting stronger, I'm getting faster, I'm getting more explosive. The ball is starting to travel again. And those are all positive things.
None of that was immediately apparent to start the second round, but Woods definitely seemed poised to break out on the back nine after several near misses for birdie.
Tiger started the back nine Friday with yet another par. As solid as Woods looked during his par streak, Tiger Tracker suggested that he needed to go on a birdie run for the remainder of the round in order to get back in business:
So Tiger reeled off 5 birdies in 6 holes yesterday starting at 11. May need to replicate that today to have a realistic shot this weekend.— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) July 18, 2014
That wasn't in the cards, though, as Tiger parred holes 10 through 16. It isn't often that Woods goes that deep into a round without a birdie, but it hasn't been uncommon as of late, according to Sobel:
Tiger has 12 pars, a bogey and a double today. Last time he didn't make a birdie? All the way back to three rounds ago. Last day at Doral.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 18, 2014
Per Harig, Woods had only gone an entire major round without a birdie on three occasions previously:
Tiger has had just 3 rounds in a major without a birdie. Last 1st round of 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. 3 holes to go, no birdies— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) July 18, 2014
Pars are usually good in the Open Championship, but with McIlroy and others putting up excellent scores, pars simply weren't enough to get Woods back in the hunt. According to Robert Lusetich of FoxSports.com, Tiger was cognizant of that more than anyone:
Tiger's long par streak came to an abrupt end on the par-four 17th hole when he posted a triple bogey. That put him even further off the pace, but more importantly it put his back against the wall in terms of even making the cut, per Sobel:
Tiger Woods triples the 17th hole. Looks like he might need birdie on the last to make the cut. Oh, and he doesn't have a birdie yet today.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 18, 2014
According to Justin Ray of Golf Channel, missing the cut at the British Open would have been an unprecedented happening in Woods' career:
Tiger Woods has never missed the cut in consecutive starts as a professional. Currently outside cut line.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 18, 2014
When he needed it most, however, Tiger was able to come through with a birdie on the very last hole. That moved him to two over par and likely ensured that he will play this weekend.
There were plenty of things that held Woods back Friday, but his poor driver play may have topped them all, per Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel:
Tiger Woods birdies last hole to give himself a chance of making Open cut at +2. He was +6 on holes where he hit driver today.— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) July 18, 2014
Woods' score would have looked bad even if he had carded it earlier in the day when under-par rounds were difficult to come by. The conditions got better as the round went on, which led to the likes of McIlroy, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson and many others shooting great scores.
Even so, it was hugely disappointing that Woods simply never got on track and found the flow of his game during the round.
How will Woods perform this weekend?
Even if he had shot a couple strokes under par in the second round, he would have had an uphill climb. Woods wasn't even able to get to that point, though, and he will now be an afterthought during the third and fourth rounds.
As poorly as Woods played Friday, finding a way to make the cut was actually a huge deal. He needs to play as many competitive rounds as he possibly can to return to top form. He isn't going to be in the mix at the Open Championship in terms of contending for the win, but he has an opportunity to work out some kinks and continue to strengthen his back.
With the PGA Championship coming up in a few weeks, Woods must now focus on improving and playing as well as he possibly can over the next two rounds.
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