HOYLAKE, England — Tiger Woods made birdie on the 18th hole Friday to get to 2-over for the tournament and safely inside the cut line at the British Open, but his game is still in danger anytime he hits his driver. He trails leader Rory McIlroy by 14 shots.
If 2006 Tiger Woods were to sit down with 2014 Tiger Woods, what might he say to his future self? After telling him to enjoy that moment on No. 18 at Torrey Pines in 2008 and to avoid training with Navy SEALs — among other things — he might tell him to leave his driver in the car for his second round of the British Open at Royal Liverpool. You can win here without it, he would say.
And he would know, right?
Perhaps he should have taken a page out of playing partner Henrik Stenson’s book and snapped his driver over his leg to save it the humiliation from what was to follow.
When Woods walked onto the first tee this afternoon he was in eighth place at the 143rd British Open. Eighteen holes later, he walked up the 18th fairway needing a birdie to avoid missing the cut. He finished with a second-round 77 to secure his place for the weekend, but he played himself out of the tournament Friday afternoon.
Woods teed off at 2:05 p.m. local time and avoided the blustery conditions that plagued the morning rounds. He faced a course ripe for the picking. The defending champ at Royal Liverpool, Woods only used driver once during his opening round and shot a 3-under 69 with six birdies. Then, he pulled driver out of his bag on the first tee Friday and promptly cranked it far left. His approach shot fell short of the green, and after running his birdie chip off the green, he couldn’t get it up-and-down. Double-bogey.
On the tee at No. 2, the headcover came off again, and he missed the fairway to the right. Bogey. On the par-5 5th, most of the contenders made birdies. Woods pulled driver again, missed the fairway again, and parred the hole after running an eagle chip 20 feet past the hole. Woods made the turn with a 3-over 38, seven shots back of McIlroy, who was busy running away with the tournament. Woods shelved the driver for the remainder of the round until the 16th hole where he hit it again and — you guessed it — missed the fairway. He hit driver again on No. 17 and pumped it O.B. to the right. He reloaded on the tee, stayed with the driver, and yanked it way left. From over the green, he flubbed his chip and two-putted for a triple bogey. Suddenly he was outside the cut line.
"Yeah, I didn't hit the driver very good today," Woods said after his round. "And I was trying to be a bit more aggressive. With the wind the way it was, I could take some of the bunkers out of play and get it down where I sand wedge in the green. Angel was doing that yesterday and did it quite effectively with a more difficult wind. And I figured today would be a chance to go out there and be aggressive and do that, take some of these bunkers out of play and just didn't drive it well."
Could that have been achieved by using his three wood, a club he hit well Friday?
"I couldn't carry the bunkers, that was the thing," Woods said. "Either you lay up short or go ahead and go over the top. And I decided to take a little bit more on today and try to clear them."
Woods got up-and-down on the par-5 18th for birdie to squeeze into the weekend and avoid missing back-to-back cuts for the first time in his career.
In between the errant drives, Woods did…basically nothing. Irons off the tee looked good until they rolled off the fairway into the rough. Approach shots looked solid until they landed pin high and rolled off the green. Woods looked like someone getting his first taste of links golf, not a three-time British Open champion. Was Thursday just a misnomer? A tease to all of the remaining Tiger fans of the world? Thursday he had six birdies. Friday he only beat 13 players in the field.
The last time Tiger opened his round with a double-bogey, bogey start was Sunday at Torrey Pines in 2008. He shot a 73 and won his 14th major the following day in dramatic fashion over Rocco Mediate. If he could sit down with 2006 Tiger for a chat, he’d know to hold that trophy a little tighter.