Tiger Woods often comes up clutch, even when he procrastinates until the end.
The 42-year-old struggled all round Friday at the Wells Fargo Championship, especially with a balky putter, and was one outside the cutline at 3 over as he played Quail Hollow’s par-4 ninth – his final hole of the round.
Needing a birdie to essentially ensure he would make the weekend, Woods came up big. A nuked driver down the middle, a 140-yard approach to 13 feet and a pure left-to-right putt in the heart produced the closing birdie he needed.
That monumental 3 got Woods his first birdie of the day and a 2-over 73. He entered the hole tied for 86th at 3 over for the tournament and finished it tied for 66th at 2 over.
With the afternoon wave remaining and facing a difficult Quail Hollow layout, Woods’ standing on the leaderboard should only improve, if anything. So, he’s very likely to make the weekend at this point.
If he had missed that putt? It’s definitely possible 3 over could be the number to make the weekend in the end, but it would’ve been a long wait for Woods. And there’s nowhere near a guarantee that number will drop to 3 over.
Anyway, Woods has very likely survived the cut. But it doesn’t mean he can be too enthused with his effort over the first 36 holes.
His play in Round 2 was especially troubling.
Woods’ day started off OK at the par-4 10th when he blasted a greenside bunker shot to 12 feet. He would miss the birdie putt and have to drain a 4-foot comebacker to salvage par, which he did.
But problems surfaced soon after. Woods hit a perfect drive at the par-4 11th and a great approach that landed 10 feet right of the pin and spun back a little. It looked like the ball would finish 15 feet right under the hole. But instead of that good birdie look, as it spun back the ball just reached a false front and rolled all the way off the front of the green and down a slope. Now facing a difficult uphill chip of 20+ yards instead, Woods wedged to 8 feet and missed the putt for a demoralizing bogey.
Woods three-putted from 64 feet three holes later for another bogey. He was now 2 over and outside the cutline. The remainder of his opening nine gave him little relief. He made four straight pars to go out in 2-over 38, and while he moved inside the cutline, he was on the number.
The beginning of his back nine was shaky, but Woods hung in there as he drained three straight putts from the range of 4-6 feet to make a series of pars. He made two more at the fourth and fifth and then lasered an iron right over the flag at the par-3 sixth.
On the cutline and facing a 15-footer for birdie for breathing room, Woods inexplicably three-putted for bogey to drop one north of the cut again. With the friendly par-5 seventh upcoming, he still had salvation, but Woods lipped out a 6-footer for birdie that would’ve gotten him back to 2 over and inside the cut.
Another opportunity arose when he had a 45-yard pitch for his second at the par-4 eighth, but his effort came up almost 25 feet short and he couldn’t convert the birdie putt.
Then, the script flipped at the ninth when he did indeed come up with the birdie he needed.
The culprit for Woods’ struggles over the first two days is not hard to discern. His driving was not especially accurate (he hit exactly 50 percent of his fairways), but that didn’t seem to bother him a ton. His approach play was not perfect but definitely the best part of his game. And his work around the greens was decent.
His putter, however, was a disaster.
Woods missed five putts inside 10 feet as he struggled on Thursday and then somehow did worse the following day. He missed five more inside 10 feet on Friday and eight total inside 15 feet on the day. His strokes gained: putting for the second round was around -3.
As the PGA Tour noted in the middle of the round, Woods was 140th of 155 players in the field to that point in strokes gained: putting.
Twice in two days, Woods three-putted from 15 feet. And he couldn’t even seem to get his putter working when he needed it most, as that second three-putt came late followed by that missed 6-footer for birdie.
But true to who Woods is, his putter came through just at the last second with that 13-footer.
Bad weeks on the greens happen, but after being so solid there in his comeback this is at least a little disconcerting.
Still, Woods is onto the weekend. He has a chance to shore things up now rather than stew until the Players Championship.
He’s only seven off the lead at the moment, so you never know: A weekend run could possibly be in store.