SAN DIEGO — Tiger Woods battled Torrey Pines, the weight of expectations, but mostly himself on Friday as he scratched and clawed his way into weekend action at the Farmers Insurance Open, the first cut he’s made on the PGA Tour in 889 days.
This is an event he has won seven times, but Woods’ second-round 71 — capped by a birdie at the last to make the cut on the number — may rank as one the most meaningful rounds he’s posted at a venue where he has been winning since his junior days. Guaranteeing himself weekend employment, his first on the PGA Tour since the 2015 Wyndham Championship, is a victory of sorts for the 14-time major champion as he begins a comeback from back surgery. He hasn’t competed on Tour in a year and hasn’t won in almost five years.
“I felt like I did well today,” Woods said. “I grinded around, chipped and putted well and posted a number.”
Woods fought his driver for most of the day, finding just three of 14 fairways on the North Course at Torrey Pines. He began on No. 10 with a drive that hooked 60 yards left of the fairway and came to rest behind the press tent, eliciting groans from fans packed six deep behind the tee.
Woods salvaged par but it was an ominous beginning to his round. Another hook left into a canyon on 13 led to a double-bogey on the way to making the turn in two-over 38.
“I had the pulls early. Actually, more like a pull flip,” Woods said. “After I hit a couple of those I went for the spinner out there. I lost a couple to the right. Then I settled in and hit some good ones. It’s still not right. I need to fix that.”
Woods came home in three-under 33, saved by his short game as a series of deft chips and key putts made the difference. He needed just 24 putts Friday, seven fewer than in his 72 on the South Course in Round 1.
He finished at 1-under, 10 shots behind the leader Ryan Palmer. But Woods wasn’t focused on the north end of the leaderboard today.
“I’ve been away from the game for a couple years, so it’s nice to get out there and just compete again,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll be around for the weekend and be able to compete and play and keep building.”
No comeback by Woods is without outsized expectations, and certainly not one at Torrey Pines, where his seven Farmers wins complement his 2008 U.S. Open victory here. But his last title here was five years ago, and more recent results have been less stellar, including a WD, a missed cut and what was then the highest round of his professional career in 2014, a 79.
Friday’s 71 was the 45th time Woods has posted a round under par at Torrey Pines, but few had this much meaning. And fans knew it, evidenced by the raucous cheers that greeted every back nine birdie as he battled back from being three strokes outside the cut line as he turned for the clubhouse.
A missed cut at a course he has dominated would have been a setback for Woods — a minor one, admittedly, but a setback nonetheless. Instead he gets to turn his attention to the weekend. And beyond, which is where his real focus is.
“Just progressing and keep playing tournaments,” he said when asked about his goals after the round. “Heading to April.”