ROCHESTER, N.Y. — What comes to mind when you think of Tiger Woods in a major championship?
For the better part of the last 15 years, the response would be almost universal: an emotionally charged fist-pump after a clutch putt, right?
The image now? Take your pick: Tiger looking confused after a misread putt that didn't fall. Tiger dropping his driver — when he actually decides to pull it out of the bag — after an errant drive. Tiger chopping his ball out of deep rough with a one-handed follow-through.
All of those new pictures were on display during Tiger's up-and-down round of even-par 70 on a wet Friday at vulnerable Oak Hill Country Club.
The course was already softened from rain earlier in the week. It became even more receptive after another round of showers Friday morning. It was ripe for the taking. Some players did. In the morning wave, Webb Simpson tied the course record at Oak Hill with a 6-under 64. Jason Dufner captivated the crowd with a run at the first 62 in major championship history, but settled for setting the new course record at 63.
Tiger, on the other hand, alternated from blocked tee shots and missed par saves to crushed two-irons and gimme birdies. Four bogeys, four birdies and 10 shots behind Dufner. Woods is currently is tied for 39th. The highest 36-hole position by a winner is 35th when David Duval came back to win the 2001 British Open.
"Obviously, I'm going to have to put together a really good weekend," Woods said. "[The course] is definitely gettable."
Woods almost suffered an inexcusable mental gaffe on the par-4 9th, the same hole he doubled Thursday. After missing a birdie putt, Woods stubbed his putter into the ground as he casually went to tap in his two-inch par putt with one-hand. The ball barely got the one rotation it needed to drop into the cup. These things don't happen to Tiger Woods. Or at least they didn't.
"I'm so far back," Woods said. "If the leaders go ahead and run off with it, I'm going to be pretty far behind."
After a brief post-round meeting with the media, Woods took off for a bridge that connects the practice green to the driving range. A special meeting of his inner circle convened on a hole of Oak Hill's West course that serves as a secondary driving range this week.
Caddie Joe LaCava, swing instructor Sean Foley and agent Mark Steinberg watched their main asset take swing after swing as he looked for answers. Foley took a club and mimicked the way he wanted Tiger to take it back. Then, he instructed his star pupil to control his hip movement in his downswing while the world's No. 1 player practiced with his driver. Tiger tried to oblige.
Earlier in his round, Woods stopped as he walked up the eighth fairway while his playing partners Keegan Bradley and Davis Love III addressed their approach shots. Tiger's second shot had landed safely on the green about 25 feet away from the stick, but he still appeared to be disgusted. With putter in hand, he practiced his swing step-by-step in slow motion, from takeaway, to the top, to the follow-through. Halfway through his second round at the PGA Championship, Woods was looking for solutions.
Can the same swing that led to a runaway victory and an unbelievable 61 at the WGC-Bridgestone last week just stop being effective and consistent?
"It's just the way it goes," Woods said. "I obviously need to hit it better than I have."
Back on the range there was more of the same. The lesson continued to the empty players' parking lot where Foley demonstrated a proper set-up over the ball — with his umbrella.
Maybe that's your new image of Tiger at major championships: desperately looking for answers in an empty parking lot.