FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Tiger Woods badly pulled the opening drive of his second round on Friday, his ball coming to rest in Bethpage Black's thick rough down the left side at the par-4 first. Woods didn't know it at the time, but he and that lush lettuce were about to become very close over the next 17 holes.
Woods hit just three fairways in his second round, a seemingly impossible stat to overcome at the Black Course. Remarkably, he did on the front nine, where he hit just one fairway and still managed to grind out an even-par 35. Eventually though, his erratic driving was going to catch up to him.
On the back nine it doomed him, as Woods weed-whacked his way to a 38 to finish with a three-over 73, putting him one shot outside the cut line. It's the first time he's missed a cut since last year's U.S. Open at Shinnecock, and the first time in his career that he's missed a cut in the major after a major victory.
"It's just the way it goes," Woods said matter-of-factly to a scrum of reporters after the round. "You know, just don't feel well and just not able to do it. But resting would be better, so I would have energy to play. You know, unfortunately I just didn't—made too many mistakes and just didn't do the little things I need to do. You know, I had a couple three-putts. I didn't hit wedges close. I didn't hit any fairways today. Did a lot of little things wrong."
Woods provided brief glimmers of hope for the mass of Long Island fans with long birdie conversions at the sixth and ninth holes, the first yielding a walk-in from the 15-time major winner and the second a putter raise. But the heroics were instantly spoiled by the brutal stretch of holes 10 through 12, where three missed fairways led to three consecutive bogeys.
At the 13th, he hit one of his worst drives of the day, another pull into the fairway bunker down the left side. He ended up making birdie, one final highlight for the masses who won't be treated to Sunday red at the Black.
"Just wasn't moving the way I needed to. That's the way it goes," he said. "There's going to be days and weeks where it's just not going to work, and today was one of those days."
Woods' Friday struggles made Koepka's first two days appear even more staggering than they were. As Woods labored around the property, Koepka cruised for the second straight round, adding a five-under 65 to his opening 63. Woods had a front row seat to it all, and could do nothing but tip his cap.
"What Brooksy did, he's driving it 330 yards in the middle of the fairway. He's got 9-irons when most of us are hitting 5-irons, 4-irons, and he's putting well. That adds up to a pretty substantial lead, and if he keeps doing what he's doing, there's no reason why he can't build on this lead.
"The golf course is soft enough where the power helps. So when he did miss the fairway, he missed it far enough down there where he was still able to hit wedges and 9-irons on the green, and on top of that, he missed on the correct sides. So he had good angles."
Woods may be referring to the 18th hole, where he hit one of his three fairways and had only wedge in, but settled for par. Koepka? He missed the fairway right, but cleared all the bunkers. Then he flipped a wedge from 105 yards to 11 feet and holed his seventh birdie of the day. That earned him a seven-shot lead as he closes in on a potential fourth major victory in his last eight tries. If it looks and feels like he's playing a different game, that's probably because he is.
That said, Woods did just beat the guy at the Masters by one stroke. Even after getting dusted by Koepka over two rounds, he made sure to remind everyone of that fact.
"You know, I'm the Masters Champion and 43 years old and that's a pretty good accomplishment," he said.