Woods scrambles to make weekend at Muirfield


DUBLIN, Ohio – Good news first.

Tiger Woods has largely eliminated the two-way miss, at least for one day at the Memorial.

Now, the bad stuff.

The right side of Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village isn’t sprawling enough to handle a tee ball that for 36 holes has found exactly nine fairways.

For the second consecutive day, Woods put on a grinding exhibition, missing the fairway – to the right, of course – on three of his first five holes only to play that stretch in 3 under and move himself into red figures for the first time this week.

Like Thursday, it was a putting and chipping clinic, with the 172nd-ranked player in the world one-putting his first five holes on his way to a front-nine 33, the same number he had on Thursday after he’d posted an outward 40 on the back.

Throughout all the wheat and chaff, however, Woods managed to gain ground on the leaderboard, to say nothing of his dogged pursuit of a more consistent swing.

“Obviously displeased with the way I drove it. I didn't drive it very good again. I kept spinning the ball. I have to go fix that,” said Woods, who carded a second-round 70 to vault 21 places up the board and into a tie for 64th to make the cut on the number.

While he continues to fine-tune an action that is still very much a work in progress – he spent more than an hour on Thursday working with swing consultant Chris Como – he has pared down his waywardness to only 50 percent of the golf course.

You know the deal, baby steps.

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Of the nine fairways he missed on a hot and humid day, six of those foul balls were to right field, which is progress by any measure over the two-way miss that haunted him Thursday.

“I feel like today I made some progress from yesterday, and now I need to go work on it again, and I'll make some progress tomorrow and keep doing that, and hopefully it will all come together this weekend,” he said. “If not, two weeks from now [at the U.S. Open].”

It was just as encouraging for the five-time Memorial winner that he was able to play the closing nine, historically Muirfield Village’s more difficult loop, in 1 over par, three strokes better than Thursday’s 40.

Still, all drives considered, there is work to be done. Considering that for two days at Jack’s place, Woods has gained 5.3 strokes on the field with his putter but lost 5.7 shots in strokes gained-tee to green.

His short-game magic included birdie putts from 33, 22, and 18 feet at Nos. 1, 2 and 4, 18 feet on No. 12 and a highlight-reel 29-footer from off the green on No. 14 for his last of the day.

“The putting was great today. I had a great feel for the pace. Even the putts I missed had that kind of go-in look, and they were right around the hole,” said Woods, who needed to make a 5-footer for par at the last to secure his weekend tee time after late bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17.

After Round 1, Woods was asked about the differences in his swing since he first start working with Como last fall.

“No, it's different. It's just different,” he said. “I'm moving off it, yes, but it's just different.”

On Friday, many Tour swing types echoed that sentiment, pointing out that his driver swing included much more lateral and vertical movement than the one he had on display at last fall’s Hero World Challenge, which some opine is leading to his poor driving.

It’s worth noting that this is the second consecutive event Woods has had to grind over a putt on his 36th hole to advance to the weekend. This week is also a far cry from his performance at Muirfield Village in 2009 when he put on a driving clinic, going 14-for-14 on Sunday from the tee and missing just seven fairways all week on his way to victory.

Following his scrum with reporters after his round, Woods bolted the scoring area, asking an official, “Which way to the range?”

There is still plenty of work that needs to be done.