DUBLIN, Ohio – On the 11th tee at Muirfield Village on Friday, a fan yelled to Tiger Woods, 'It's time to get nasty, Tiger!'
It was a call urging Woods to take control of the Memorial Tournament.
Instead, it was the start of what could have been his undoing. Woods missed a short birdie putt on 11, made a double bogey at 12 and left himself a 7-footer for par on 13.
But he sank the par-saver, then played the final five holes in 2 under to finish with a 69 that left him in a three-way tie for second, one shot off Rory Sabbatini’s lead.
Woods came to the 11th tee 3 under for his round and tied for the lead at 5 under. He hit three solid shots at the par 5. His approach landed 3 feet from the pin, setting up a seemingly certain birdie. But he missed, letting some air out of a crowd that was ready to explode.
A hole later, Woods left the gallery dead silent. After Fred Couples hit a 6-iron into the water hazard in front of the green, Woods, with a stiff wind in his face, hit a 7-iron over the green. He failed to get a flop shot to the green, left it in a clumpy lie, hit his next chip short and made double bogey.
Three holes later, Woods rebuilt from the rubble of the 12th.
On the final par 5 of the round, the four-time Memorial champion again hit three good shots in blustery conditions, leaving himself a 5-footer for birdie. And this time, the putt dropped. It was his only par-5 birdie of the day – a stark contrast to Round 1, when he birdied three par 5s.
As the temperature continued to drop, Woods continued to show symptoms of illness. Through the round, he cleared his throat, spit and blew his nose into his towel.
Woods didn't have anything to stop his sniffles, but he did have one last dose of elixir for his round.
On the par-3 16th, Woods hit a high fade to 4 feet from the back-right pin and made the birdie putt to tie for the lead again.
A par at the last left Woods at 5 under, a shot behind Sabbatini, who played the back nine in 3 under.
'It was just a day where you just kind of grind it out, shoot something in the red,' Woods said. 'The leaders weren't going to go anywhere today. It's just too hard out there.'
'This is the way that I hit the ball at Bay Hill,' Woods said, referring to the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which in March he won for the seventh time, 'and the way I hit it at the end of last year.'
If Woods prevails on Sunday for his 73rd PGA Tour win, he would equal the career tally of Memorial host Jack Nicklaus.
'Obviously it would be nice,' he said, 'but I've still got half a tournament to go.'