AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Things got so bad for Tiger Woods off the tee in Friday’s second round of the Bridgestone Invitational that he had to supply his own soundtrack.
“Get in the hole!” he sneered under his breath at an errant iron shot into the par-3 seventh hole, repeating the cliched phrase so often yelled by the loudest of his fans.
Woods followed up his worst round ever at Firestone Country Club, a 4-over 74 on Thursday, by matching his second-worst round, a 72. When he left the course, the seven-time winner of the Bridgestone stood 13 shots off the lead – but just two shots out of last place in the 81-player field.
In his 261 PGA Tour starts, he has played the first 36 holes worse in only four tournaments.
It wasn’t just bad scores, however. The biggest problem is that Woods has almost no idea where his ball is going off the tee.
He hit only three of 14 fairways in the second round. A closer look shows he hit seven tee shots into the right rough – sometimes far, far to the right – and three other times he pounded the ball into the high grass on the left.
In other words, he was all over the course, visiting spots that the game’s best seldom see.
He bolted after his round, walking away from reporters after signing his scorecard and then hustling to his waiting luxury SUV. But on Wednesday, he was asked about his driving.
“Of late I’ve been driving the ball so much better,” he said.
He did not back that up on the course. His play speaks volumes about where he is just a week before the final major of the year, the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
Woods came into the Bridgestone ranked ninth in the U.S. Ryder standings, with the top eight assured of spots on the team. He repeatedly said during a pretournament interview that he intended to play his way on, instead of forcing American captain Corey Pavin to select him with one of his discretionary picks.
But Woods is not showing that his game is in shape with just 10 days remaining until those eight automatic qualifiers for the U.S. side are finalized.
Woods hit his first drive of the day (on the 10th hole) far to the right and ended up bogeying. On the next tee, he slashed the ball far to the left, scattering the gallery, but ended up making a par.
After walking off the second tee, he turned back to playing partner Lee Westwood, who was also spraying the ball off the tee, and said, “So how are we doing so far?” Both laughed.
Woods didn’t hit a drive into the fairway until his eighth hole, about the same time a fan yelled, “Welcome back, Tiger, to your home away from home.” On the next hole, he drove directly behind a large fir tree. He whacked a 3 iron off the low-hanging branches, the ball going across the fairway and hitting another tree there. He then chipped 12 feet past the hole and missed the par putt.
It was like that all day long, with Woods finding trouble repeatedly.
Woods, ranked No. 1 in the world for the past 269 weeks, was paired the first two days with Westwood, who is No. 3. Both of them hacked up the course in the second round, with Westwood shooting a 76 to stand at 147, a shot behind Woods.
“Neither of us played very well, did we?” said Westwood, who is battling an injured right calf that caused him to withdraw from the remainder of the Bridgestone and next week’s PGA. “We’re all human. We all have bad days.”
The two did talk to each other or their caddies from time to time. There was an occasional smile.
“What can you do? Cry?” Westwood said with a laugh. “You try and pass the time as fast as possible.”