'Zero energy' in group as Tiger Woods barely makes cut at Players

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 11: Tiger Woods of the United States waits on the green on the par 5, 11th hole during the second round of the THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 11, 2018 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) David Cannon/Getty Images

'Zero energy' in group as Tiger Woods barely makes cut at Players

PGA Tour

'Zero energy' in group as Tiger Woods barely makes cut at Players

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Good luck finding three guys who look like they’re having less fun on a golf course than Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler did late in their round Friday morning at TPC Sawgrass.

Mickelson was going home for the weekend and he knew it. Fowler was 5 under through 14 before consecutive double bogeys to miss the cut. And Woods remains stuck in a pattern of average golf that began at the Masters, continued at the Wells Fargo Championship and carried over through two rounds of the Players Champions.

At least Woods made the cut after shooting 1-under 71 Friday on a course others in the field have been able to attack.

“I’m more frustrated in the fact that I had some shorter irons in there and I didn’t hit any of them close,” Woods said. “I should be hitting them inside flag length, and I didn’t do that today.”

The crowd provided little to no juice but didn’t have much to cheer about, save for a Woods birdie at 16 and a back-nine stretch of three birdies in four holes from Fowler.

It was an uptight and quiet morning until Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava mercifully broke the tension while walking around the 18th green at the group’s ninth hole of the day.

LaCava didn’t see Phil Mickelson’s golf bag in his path until it was too late and stumbled over it. Everyone saw. Mickelson was eyeing a 54-foot birdie attempt at the time.

Woods was quiet for a few seconds then burst out laughing. He made eye contact with Fowler and Fowler’s caddie Joe Skovron, who were covering their faces. Everyone was just trying to keep it together.

Tiger Woods and caddie Joe LaCava laugh on the 18th green after LaCava tripped on Mickelson’s golf bag. (Getty Images)

Watching a friend trip is unobjectionably funny in some circles, but it kept getting funnier in the way those things always do during serious moments when everyone is supposed to be quiet. Mickelson had to back off his putt a good 45 seconds later because he was still laughing.

“The worst part is, all I could think of as I was falling in slow motion was, (expletive), don’t put your elbows out and snap Phil’s driver,” LaCava said. “So I tried to kind of roll out and go real slow.”

Fowler missed an 18-foot birdie try, Woods missed his 8-footer for par and the moment was gone by the time the group began the lengthy walk across property, past the clubhouse toward the first tee to underwhelming fanfare.

“It was really cool yesterday, especially the first nine holes,” Skovron said. “Kind of midway through the round today there was zero energy out there. Not a lot going on.”

Woods did birdie the par-3 third hole to inject some life in the crowd, but from there on he didn’t make a putt longer than 5 feet and finished with six pars in a row.

He’s heading for his sixth consecutive made cut, which is good, but this will be the third straight week in which he’s snuck onto the Saturday tee sheet. It’s a far cry from the three consecutive top-12 finishes which proceeded this stretch, and it seems to be wearing on Woods a bit.

He hit the green at the difficult 237-yard par-3 eighth and lipped out on a 42-foot birdie try. Two very good golf shots. He looked up to the sky after watching the putt roll off the edge and was totally stone-faced walking to the ninth and final hole, unable to catch a break or create one of his own.

Woods was on point with his irons during a T-12 finish at the Honda Classic, finishing first in the field in average proximity to the hole. His chipping was off the charts at the Valspar Championship, where he was fifth in strokes gained around the green. And he drove it really well last week at Wells Fargo to end the week seventh in driving distance and 15th in strokes gained off the tee.

He’s capable of doing everything required to win golf tournaments after a multi-year absence. But when one part of his game has been on lately, the others have been pretty far off.

“That’s golf, unfortunately,” Woods said. “If we were able to put all of our facets of the game together I think there would be a lot more tournament winners out here. But this is just part of the job. We have to figure out a way to put it together, and I have not done that consistently this year so far.”

“So far” being the key term there, with Woods on to another early Saturday tee time well off the lead and trying to put all the pieces back together again. After another two-day stretch in which he outplayed two guys who have won this season, it seems likely that week will eventually come.

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