Granted, that number only got him through one shot into the 14th hole before the second round was suspended for darkness, but there was a bright side to him only making contact with the ball 52 times.
Actually, a few of ‘em.
The setting sun allowed Woods to stop the figurative bleeding in his game. This was a day that began in promising fashion, as he posted three birdies on the first five holes, his scorecard reading 3-3-3-3-3. (Which just happens to be a zip code in the South Florida area.)
From there, though, Woods struggled to maintain momentum. His first bogey came when a pitch on the seventh hole hit the flagstick, then caromed some eight feet away. He missed the comebacker for par. He followed with back-to-back bogeys on 10 and 11, both the result of poor tee shots that found bunkers.
A birdie on the 13th hole left him in a share of 15th place at 1 under for the round and 5 under for the tournament – five strokes off playing partner Matt Kuchar’s lead and four strokes behind clubhouse leader Webb Simpson – but it was hardly the performance he had expected after that opening five-hole stretch.
“I got off to a great start today, and then lost it the middle part of the round and made too many mistakes,” he explained. “Didn't hit any greens. Consequently, made some bogeys.”
The mid-round suspension also gave Woods an opportunity to shake some beach out of his shoes.
Woods found six bunkers in those 13½ holes, a number he’s been known to remain under for an entire 72-hole tournament. Each of those three bogeys occurred after finding a hazard, recalling an old Shooter McGavin line.
Most importantly, though, the early ending afforded Woods a chance to get treatment for his ailing back.
Two days earlier, he didn’t hit a single full shot on the back nine of the pro-am, blaming a soft hotel bed for giving him back tightness, though claiming the decision was only for precautionary measures. On Thursday, he intimated that the issue was still prevalent after an opening-round 67, as he winced and grimaced his way to a bogey-free performance.
Friday’s round showed more of the same – and he admitted as much afterward.
“I'm a little sore right now, yeah,” he said. “I'm going to get treatment right now as soon as I get done here with you guys and be ready for tomorrow morning.”
As for the extent of how much pain he’s currently feeling, check out this exchange with a reporter:
Q: Did the pain increase throughout the round?
Q: Any specific shot stick out?
A: Every one.
Woods will hope to return Saturday morning with that back problem sorted out, but it won’t come under the easiest conditions. An early wakeup call will have him restarting the second round at 7:30 a.m. – never a good hour for an ailing back – and he’ll also have more of the start-stop-start-stop proceedings which hampered his Thursday round.
However, there’s a bright side – when he returns, Woods will have a 12-foot birdie attempt on the 14th hole. If he makes it, he could be just four strokes off the lead, playing four more holes on soft, morning greens before returning for the afternoon round.
After posting a 52 on Friday, he’ll likely shoot something in the 80s on Saturday, what with 22½ holes left. Keeping that number as low as possible while remaining as pain-free as possible will be the key to staying in contention for his sixth title of the season entering Sunday’s final round.