Woods' savior Friday: Short game 'good again'

Tiger Woods during Friday's second round of the PGA Tour's 2014 Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Grind it until you find it. That was the mantra for Tiger Woods on a Friday in which he straddled the cut line all day. Woods carded a 1-under 69 at PGA National’s Champion course in the second round of the Honda Classic to make the cut on the number at even-par 140 for the first 36 holes.

“It was a grind, there’s no doubt about it,” Woods said. “Just one of those days where I fought out a number, which was good.”

Never one to hang his head and throw in the towel, Woods refused to go quietly. Woods has just nine missed cuts in 297 starts as a professional on the Tour, with his last coming at the 2012 Greenbrier Classic. Playing in front of his mother, his two children and girlfriend Lindsey Vonn, Woods recorded his first sub-70 round on the PGA Tour in 2013-2014.

And yet at times, he played horribly off key. His 69 consisted of three birdies offset by two bogeys. After a birdie at nine to tour the front in 34, Woods missed five greens in a row from the 10th through the 14th holes, but kept averting trouble. He sprayed a 3-wood right off the 11th tee and had to make a 7-footer to save a bogey. On No. 12, he pointed and hollered “fore left,” but hit a brilliant shot from a greenside bunker tight. On No. 13, he missed the green with a wedge from 106 yards from the middle of the fairway. He did better than escape from harm this time. He chipped in from 44 feet for birdie. At No. 14, his approach from 175 yards came up short and he had to can a slippery 5-footer for par. To have played that five-hole stretch in even par was quite an achievement.

Woods graded his shaky putting in the first round as better in round two once he figured out the speed of the greens. But most of the putts he made were for par, not birdie. He hit driver just four times, but when he did he strung them into the center of the fairway. His short game looked tuned to a fine point again, and even Woods gave himself high marks.

“Short game was spotty and now it’s good again,” Woods said.

Those fresh words of encouragement couldn’t hide his irritation that his iron play bordered on dreadful. Only one of his approach shots landed inside 20 feet all day.

“Just need my ballstriking to come around,” Woods said.

With two rounds remaining, he wasn’t ready to hand the title to Rory McIlroy – or anyone else just yet. It was just two years ago that he trailed McIlroy by nine strokes at the halfway point and nearly caught him with an electrifying final-round 62. He didn’t seem too concerned about spotting McIlroy 11 strokes this time around.

“Maybe I can post a number tomorrow,” Woods said. “Anything can happen on the weekend.”

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