BETHESDA: Tiger Woods struggled to a four-over par 75 and missed the cut Friday at the National in his first event after a three-month layoff, but claimed he was encouraged for July’s British Open. It was only the 10th time Woods has missed the cut in a US PGA Tour event since he turned professional in 1996. But considering that until this week he had not played competitively since March 9 - undergoing back surgery to relieve a pinched nerve on March 31 - Woods said he was pleased at having no setbacks.
Woods, a 14-time major winner chasing the all-time record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, finished 36 holes at Congressional Country Club on seven-over 149. That was five strokes beyond the cut line to the low 60 and those tied, sharing 103rd from a field of 120 at the $6.5 million event, which benefits Woods’ charity foundation. Woods had not missed the last 36 holes of a PGA event since the 2012 Greenbrier Classic, two weeks before he shared third at the British Open.
Woods, who has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open, found optimism despite a day of frustration where he scrambled from the rough and could not hit the long putts once his trademark. “A lot of positives to take away from these last two days, even though I missed the cut by four shots,” Woods said. “The fact that I was able to even play - I came back four weeks earlier than we thought I could. I had no setbacks. I got my feel for playing tournament golf. “I made a ton of little, simple little mistakes, misjudging things and missing the ball on the wrong sides ... those are little things I can correct.”
The 38-year-old American was trying to shake the rust off his game ahead of the British Open in three weeks at Royal Liverpool, where he won the Claret Jug in 2006. “I’m very excited to play that golf course,” Woods said. “We’ll see what happens when we get there.” Three weeks after that will come the year’s final major tournament, the PGA Championship at Valhalla, where Woods won the PGA crown in 2000. Woods admitted he had been worried about how his body would react to swinging the driver at full speed.
“The one thing that I was worried about the most was going out there and hitting driver full out. I had not hit it with competitive speed,” Woods said. Woods was inconsistent Friday, seldom able to combine solid tee shots, approaches and putts although he was strong at moments in all three areas. He parred the first three holes after hitting into the rough, found the fairway at four but missed a seven-foot birdie putt, then needed two shots to escape a greenside bunker at the fifth, making a double bogey. After leaving a seven-foot par putt on the edge of the cup for bogey at eight, Woods made a 26-foot birdie putt at the ninth and a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-3 10th, moving within one stroke of the cut line.
Four straight bogeys: But Woods made bogeys on the next four holes to doom any chance of reaching the weekend. Woods hit into the trees off the tee at 11 and 12, missed the green at the par-3 13th and found greenside rough at the 14th. It was his longest bogey run since this year’s third round at Torrey Pines when he suffered five in a row. Woods dropped his approach to two feet at the par-5 16th and made a birdie but missed a four-foot birdie putt at 17 and also settled for par at the last.
That left Woods 13 strokes adrift of co-leaders Marc Leishman and Oliver Goss of Australia and Patrick Reed and Ricky Barnes of the United States. Woods’ run of 26 made cuts in a row that ended on Friday ranked fourth on the active list, although well off his personal best of 142. A winner at Congressional in 2009 and 2012, Woods has fallen from first to fifth in the world rankings during his layoff. Woods, whose 79 career titles are three shy of matching Sam Snead’s PGA record, has not won since last August’s World Golf Championships event in Akron, Ohio.
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