SAN MARTIN, Calif. (AP) — Tiger Woods has never missed consecutive cuts in his 15 years on the PGA Tour, a streak he kept intact at the Frys.com Open when he made a small step toward normalcy by breaking par for the first time in seven rounds.
Missing the cut was never a measure of success for Woods, and he wasn’t about to look at it that way Friday.
“I don’t like missing cuts, period,” Woods said after a 3-under 68 at CordeValle. “If I miss the cut, that means you can’t win the tournament on the weekend. I’ve got a shot at it this weekend.”
A long shot, at that.
The good news for Woods is that he made it to the weekend in his first tournament in seven weeks. But he had some three dozen players ahead of him, starting with Paul Casey and including Ernie Els.
Casey is making a revival of his own. He has been battling an injury to his right foot for most of the summer, one reason why he finds himself at No. 135 on the money list and in jeopardy of losing his PGA Tour card. This is 14th tournament, and Casey will play next week in the McGladrey Classic, hopeful of getting into the top 125 at the very least.
He did win in Korea last week, flew straight to California and dealt with jet lag while throwing away shots at the end of his opening round for a 70. He hardly gave up anything Friday, making eight birdies for a 7-under 64 that put him atop the leaderboard.
“Yesterday, I actually played great golf, and the mistakes you saw and the bogeys I made really were myself, maybe a lack of concentration, a bit of fatigue,” Casey said. “And today was maybe an example of another day to get over that jet lag. And I eliminated those mistakes.”
He was at 8-under 134.
One shot behind was Bud Cauley, the 21-year-old who left Alabama early to turn pro this summer and now has an outside chance of making enough money to avoid Q-school. Ernie Els, a surprise entry to this Fall Series event, also was at 7 under with two holes left in his second round.
The second round was to finish Saturday morning because of a quick fog that delayed the start by 2 hours, 20 minutes.
Woods was barely visible walking to the range, although his mood was much improved from when he looked as ordinary as ever in the opening round with a 73 and a terrible time on the greens. That evening, he was on the putting green under a gloomy sky, two tees separated enough to fit the head of his putter, rapping 5-foot putts with one or two hands on the club.
He also put two strips of lead tape on the bottom of the putter to help him cope with greens slightly slower than what he’s used to, and he adjusted his posture.
“When I did that, I was able to see the line,” Woods said. “And I was struggling to see the lines yesterday, and on top of that I couldn’t get the putts to the hole. It was a tough combo platter yesterday.”
It was different Friday.
He had a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 11 that he missed badly on Thursday. He made it from the same distance on Friday, then made a putt from about 25 feet on No. 14, the start of three straight birdies.
Woods had a 64 in mind when he arrived at CordeValle to a thick fog, twice warming up on the range as the delays dragged out. His three straight birdies included an 8-foot putt on the 15th after driving into a bunker, and a 7-iron to 3 feet on the 16th.
“I had it going early there, three in a row to get to 3-under par for the day, and if we could just keep it going, I could shoot my number,” Woods said. “I made a couple mistakes there at 18 and 1. But overall, I’m still within seven shots of it right now.”
His 3-wood on the 18th went just enough left to find a hazard, and he had to get up-and-down just to save bogey. It really looked ugly on No. 1, when he snap-hooked his tee shot and threw his driver to the ground. With the ball on the side of a hill and his feet on the cart path, Woods slipped badly on the swing and tumbled over, coming up well short of the green. He pitched only to 25 feet.
That was his seventh consecutive tee shot without hitting the fairway. On the next hole, however, he drilled one down the middle on a far more difficult driving hole, and missed only one fairway after that.
UCLA sophomore Patrick Cantlay, who beat Woods by four shots in the opening round, three-putted twice and had to made a 4-foot par putt on the last hole for a 74. He was at 1-over 143, and would not find out until Saturday if he was able to stick around.
It was the first time since the Masters that Woods made a 36-hole cut, and the first time in two months that he broke par. That speaks only to the kind of stop-and-start year he has had, missing three months this summer to let injuries to his left leg fully heal, and missing the last seven weeks when he failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.
And while the 68 was what he needed to make it to the weekend, the pleasant sunshine over CordeValle allowed for good scoring. He wasn’t the only one who took advantage, and several others did far better, starting with Casey.
Casey came up just short of the green on the par-5 15th, and then rolled in birdie putts of 40 feet and 25 feet on the next two holes, before finishing the back nine with a shot into 12 feet on the 18th. He added a pair of birdies on the front nine to put himself atop the leaderboard and raise his hopes going into the weekend.
“To be honest, it’s probably the best I’ve hit the golf ball all year,” Casey said.