LA JOLLA, Calif. — Tiger Woods, however his comeback eventually plays out, no longer comes with a guarantee, the virtual certainty he’ll be in contention wherever and whenever he plays.
Torrey Pines once was the safest bet possible, his domain, a track on which he has won nine times, with victories here in his teens as an junior, his 20s and his 30s as a professional, including the 2008 U.S. Open.
He’s now in 40s, 43 precisely, and though he’s healthy and apparently happy, he was grinding on Friday in the Farmers Insurance Open, not in pursuit of the leaders, but in an effort to stay a step ahead of the cut.
The cut was three-under par, and Woods was on the outside of it until he made birdies on his 12th and 13th holes, Nos. 3 and 4 on the North Course. He parred out to shoot a two-under par 70, identical to the score he posted on the more difficult South Course the day before.
“I feel like today I played a little bit better than I did yesterday,” Woods said. “I just didn’t make anything. I hit a lot of good putts that lipped out, that burned the edges. If those putts go in, it’s five, six-under par with not much trouble today.”
Woods might still play his way into contention, but a deficit of 11 to leader Justin Rose is an imposing obstacle to overcome on a course as difficult as the South on which the final two rounds will be played.
“I’m going to have to play a very special weekend to have a chance,” Woods said. “I’m pretty far back and the South Course, it’s tough. It’s going to have to be over a course of 36 holes to get myself back in this event. It’s going to have to be a very low and special weekend to have a chance. The guys like Rosie and Jon [Rahm], a bunch of guys are going low on the South Course, which is not easy to do. Hopefully I can be one of those guys that does it tomorrow.”
The only blemish on Woods’ scorecard was a double bogey on his ninth hole, the 18th of the North Course. His second shot buried beneath the lip of a bunker, from which he needed two more strokes to reach the green and two putts to finish the hole.
“I made a double bogey from the middle of the fairway with an 8-iron, plugged under the lip.”
After the consecutive birdies on his back nine, he was unable to capitalize on two par 5s and a drivable par 4. “I figured if I could make birdies on those holes, I get right back in this thing. I didn’t do that and hence I’m pretty far back.”