AUGUSTA, Ga. — Comebacks at 42 ain’t easy. Bay Hill and Innisbrook ain’t Augusta National, either.
For all the good golf this latest iteration of Tiger Woods has shown—six months ago he didn’t know if he’d ever play again—the cold reality is that this year’s Masters is his first in three years. And despite a closet that contains four green jackets, he hasn’t won the tournament in 13 years.
All of this helps explain why Woods shot 75 on Friday and through two rounds is four over and tied for 40th, 13 strokes off the lead of Patrick Reed.
Yes, it was an unusually difficult day of scoring with some devious hole locations, and swirling, breezy conditions. Just 16 of the 87 players in the field broke par in the second round.
But Woods has also failed to take advantage of the par 5s, something he used to feast on around Augusta National. He didn’t birdie any of them on Thursday, and it wasn’t until the 13th on Friday before he finally got one. Two holes later, he added another. By comparison, Reed has birdied every par 5 every day.
“I hit my irons awful today,” Woods said. “I didn’t control my distance, my shape, spins. I left myself in bad spots. The only good iron shot I hit today all day was at 4. The wind laid down, and I hit a little chip tee. That kind of summed up the whole day. And a lot of beautiful putts and didn’t make anything.”
Right from the start, Woods found himself in a bad spot on Friday, short-siding himself on the first hole when he hit wedge from 93 yards long and left. He failed to get up and down and made his 23rd career bogey (or worse) on the par 4, the second most of any hole at Augusta National for him.
Things went from bad to worse at No. 5 when Woods blew his second shot long and left and into the woods. With his ball against a tree, he was forced to take an unplayable lie, dropped in the trees, punched out and went on to make a double bogey. There was also a ball in the water on No. 12 (bogey) and failure to get up-and-down from behind the par-3 16th (another bogey).
In two rounds, Woods has hit just over half his fairways and half his greens, not the stuff of Masters contenders.
“I know what I need to do, I’m just not doing it,” said Woods, who was playing just his 20th round of the year on Friday and making just his 10th start in the last three years this week. “I need to do a better job of it [Saturday].”
The good news for Woods is that there is a Saturday after flirting with the cut line before sliding in with one stroke to spare. It’s the first time he’ll play the weekend of a major since the 2015 Masters, where he tied for 17th.
“Putting it in perspective, six months ago I didn’t know if I'd be playing golf,” Woods said. “Forget playing at the tour level, I didn’t know if I’d ever be playing again.
“But it’s incredible for have the opportunity again, to still come out here and play this golf course. Now I know I’m on the weekend. Even though I’m a lot behind, if I play a special weekend, shoot two rounds in the mid-60s, you never know.”