PARAMUS, N.J. (AP) — Tiger Woods is four shots behind going into the weekend at The Barclays, which can be interpreted two ways.
He started the second round tied for the lead, was alone at top when he made the turn at Ridgewood and then made four bogeys over his last eight holes – including a missed putt from 20 inches – to shoot 39 on the back and fall four shots behind.
Considering the way his year has gone, four shots behind Jason Day doesn’t seem like that much.
Woods hasn’t been this close to the lead going into the final two days since he returned from his five-month hiatus at the Masters. He was two shots behind at Augusta National and wound up in a tie for fourth.
He was 10 shots behind at the Memorial and AT&T National, nine shots behind at The Players Championship at least five shots behind at the other three majors. And who could forget Firestone, when he was 13 shots back going into a weekend that only got worse.
Woods, then, was hardly worried – and it had little to do with his score.
In a year of oddities, here’s another doozy – he was ranked No. 1 at Ridgewood in driving accuracy. Woods has missed only two fairways the first two days, although he has hit only two drivers, including none on Friday when he shot 73. He also his tied for seventh in greens in regulation, a category he once ruled.
Putting? Comes and goes, as always.
“I didn’t hit it bad at all,” Woods said. “I hit it really good. As I said, I didn’t putt really well. I hit it as good as I did yesterday. If I don’t make putts, I don’t score.”
More difficult than the four shots were the dozen players between him and Day, a 22-year-old Australian who won his first PGA Tour event earlier this year in Dallas.
And so, the weekend shapes up as anyone’s game.
Day ran off three straight birdies late in his round and was the last of nine players who had a share of the lead. A hard-fought par on the ninth hole, when he drove into the right rough and had to make a 6-foot par, gave him a second straight 67.
He was at 8-under 134.
“I just tried to stay as patient as possible, and it just kind of fell in my lap, which was really good,” Day said.
Kevin Streelman loves Ridgewood for all the right reasons, not the least of which being that his grandparents are buried in a cemetery across the street from the seventh hole. His roots are here. His parents still live nearby. And two years ago, Streelman narrowly missed a playoff at The Barclays.
So imagine the show he put on Friday morning, when soft conditions made scoring easy but all put mud on so many balls in the fairway. Right as he was making the turn, Streelman had six birdies in a seven-hole stretch and shot 63.
“It’s like a special home for me, a special place,” he said.
He was at 7-under 135, along with Vaughn Taylor, who shot a 70.
After that, it gets interesting for reasons beyond the $10 million prize for whoever wins the FedEx Cup at the end of next month. The Barclays is the first of four playoff events, and while it’s important for some players to be among the top 100 in the standings and qualify for next week’s playoff event, there’s the matter of that other cup.
The Ryder Cup.
Over in Scotland, the final qualifying event is being held for the European team. All the Europeans chasing money at Ridgewood can’t earn a spot on the team, but they can at least make one last case to captain Colin Montgomerie, who has three picks to announce Sunday.
Padraig Harrington did his part with a 68 to join the group at 5-under 137, three shots behind. Paul Casey shot a 69 and was a 138, along with Woods. Luke Donald was even par, while Justin Rose was 1 under.
The Americans already have eight on their side, with Corey Pavin announcing four picks on Sept. 7.
One of them figures to be Woods, who has said he wants to play – that counts – and showing that he’s very much capable of playing, working his way into contention.
Stewart Cink is starting to turn bogeys into pars, and pars into birdies, and he shot a 69 to join the group at 6-under 136. Still harboring hopes are Ben Crane (at 5 under) and Zach Johnson (at 4 under).
Harrington is thinking about it. Because of the five-hour time difference from Scotland, he hopes to find out before he tees off in the final round whether he has made the team. That would mean Harrington being among the last to tee off at The Barclays.
As for Cink?
“It’s there,” he said of Ryder Cup hopes on his mind. “But we’re professionals. We’ve got to focus on what we have to do right now. I want to play well and earn at least a shot at the team from Corey, at least maybe a consideration. But the FedEx Cup means a lot to me, and so does this tournament.”
Add it all up, and it should be quite a weekend.