Tiger Woods hit the ball great Friday en route to a bogey-free 67, but the putts still aren't falling

Tiger Woods hit the ball great Friday en route to a bogey-free 67, but the putts still aren’t falling

Tiger Woods made five birdies and no bogeys.
Fred Vuich/SI

DORAL, Fla. — Tiger Woods is just as confused as you are. He doesn’t know why all of those birdie chances he had on Friday didn’t go in the hole.

On a day when Bubba Watson took a one-shot lead with a 10-under 62, and Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose each came home in eight-under 64, Woods had every right to be frustrated by his bogey-free, five-under 67.

“This is the highest score I could have shot today for sure,” Woods said. “It could have been pretty low today.”

Starting on the back nine, Woods birdied the two par 5s, 10 and 12, and he came to the 372-yard, par-4 16th still at two under par. After a 287-yard drive, Woods hit a poor wedge shot to the back fringe. Sergio Garcia putted first and gave Woods a good look at the line. But Woods’s putt just didn’t drop.

This scene would be repeated Friday. He got an even better look from 11 feet on 17, but Woods pulled the putt left of the hole. Woods even had a good look at the treacherous 18th, but again he couldn’t convert.

Woods almost made eagle for the second day in a row at the par-5 first hole, but his frustrations came to a boil at the second when he chunked his second shot into a bunker. After Woods slammed his club against the ground, he cooled off enough to hit a good bunker shot and save par.

The crowd started to buzz after Woods birdied Nos. 4 and 5 to get to five under, but he left the fans feeling like they just missed seeing something special after he failed to make a single birdie putt inside 20 feet on Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 9.

When asked about all those missed opportunities, Woods seemed baffled.

“I don’t know, I hit pure putts,” he said. “I hit them right on my line, and they were just lipping out.”

The questions about Woods’s swing and his work with coach Sean Foley have all but disappeared after his 62 last Sunday at the Honda Classic. The question now is, Can Woods ever find the putting stroke that won him 14 majors and 71 PGA Tour events? The jury is still out, at least until the first week of April, but Woods is confident he’s not far off.

“I just have to be committed to what I’m doing and continue rolling it,” Woods said. “Because I’m hitting the putts on what I’m reading and what I’m seeing, and unfortunately they are just lipping out.”

With rain softening the once-feared Blue Monster, and several of his fellow competitors going crazy-low, Woods knows he can get back into contention with a low round on Saturday, despite being seven shots off the lead.

“You drive the ball well on most of the holes, you’re going to have some short irons in there, and you can take advantage of it,” Woods said.