Tiger Woo’ 69-hole cut-making performance was a masterclass in the grind.
Tiger Woo battled because that’s what he does. And for what? He hobbled and clawed, moaned and growled. For the sake of himself.
Woods had nothing to prove and nothing to win by making the cut at the PGA Championship and enduring two more agonising rounds. A normal person would have seen a double bogey on the 11th as a not-so-subtle message to pack it in. Go through the motions as best you can, avoid discomfort as much as you can, and return to Jupiter in time to sleep in your own bed. Rory McIlroy, for one, would have done it even sooner.
“If it had been me yesterday, I would have been thinking dropping out and just going home,” McIlroy remarked after falling by two to Woods, in awe of his playing partner’s tenacity. “However, Tiger is unique.”
Tiger Woo is a one-of-a-kind individual with an uncanny ability to focus on a single aim. That aim on Friday was to make the cut, dammit. That’s exactly what he intended to accomplish.
“You can’t win the tournament if you miss the cut,” he says emphatically.
Woods’ one-under 69 on Friday afternoon, which puts him at three over for the event and ensures he makes the weekend with a shot to spare, will not be included in any highlight reels of his career. However, it was a true masterclass in the art of grinding. Woods gritted his teeth as his gait slowed to a tip-toe, sweat poured down his temples, and his ankle swelled—Woods claimed earlier this week that his surgically rebuilt right leg has more stamina than it did at the Masters, but we’re still waiting for proof—and somehow managed to play his final seven holes in two under par to secure two more tee times at Southern Hills.
It wasn’t even fairways-greens-two-putts golf. After the double bogey, Woods one-putted six greens in a row. There was a 14-footer for par after he pulled his approach into a short-sided bunker; an eight-footer for birdie at 13 after he carved a wedge around a tree; a 15-footer for par on the par-3 14th; an up-and-in from nowhere after airmailing the 15th green; a 5-iron to four feet for a birdie on the par-4 16th, which plays as a par 5 for membership; a
McIlroy stated, “It’s just incredible making the cut at Augusta and making the cut here.” “I was kidding with (Woods’ caddy) Joey (LaCava) yesterday about how he could have come back and played like Honda and Valspar, two of the flattest courses on tour,” says Tiger Woo. It may have been a little simpler for him, but he ends up on two of our most difficult treks. But, sure, he’s really psychologically robust and resilient. To have a front-row seat—feeling he’s it on every swing, but to watch what he accomplished on the back nine… it was just a massive effort.”
As a result, Woods will participate in the weekend tournament once again. Since his right leg was crushed by an SUV, he has competed in two tournaments, both major championships, and has made the cut both times. He is still certain that he can win this week. He does, of course. The all-time greats seldom have realism as a strength.
Tiger Woo remarked deadpan, “I’m hoping I can shoot a number like Bubba did today, tomorrow,” alluding to Bubba Watson’s seven-under 63. “That’s where my thoughts are at the moment.” I need to perform certain physical things in order to get there tomorrow, and it will be a rapid turnaround. That’s the prize for just making the cut. You get to tee off first thing the following day, and maybe I’ll be able to make it. The weather is expected to be a bit more challenging and testy, and hopefully that will be the case. If that’s the case, I’m hoping to shoot a strong round and at the very least move up the leaderboard, putting me in striking distance on Sunday.
“I’m a long way back, but you never know.” Major titles are very difficult to win. We’ve seen people come back from enormous deficits or make great comebacks, so you never know.
Regardless of his opinion, Woods will very definitely lose this week, which will irritate him. He’s also plainly annoyed by the way his leg feels, especially after claiming earlier in the week that he’d made substantial progress in the previous month. That’s not to say his self-evaluation wasn’t accurate; the leg did feel better on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and maybe even Wednesday. On Thursday, though, it started to scream, and as I watched him inch up Southern Hills’ one true slope, the term “progress” did not enter to me.
The goal for Friday’s round wasn’t to get closer to Brookline or St. Andrews. That is not how Tiger Woo’ thinking works. He’s always in tunnel vision. After all of this, it’s the reason he’s in Oklahoma this week. It’s the reason he’ll be staying for a few more days.