Tiger Woods still 'absolutely' sure he can win another major after missing U.S. Open cut

SOUTHAMPTON, NY - JUNE 15: Tiger Woods of the United States gestures on the tenth green during the second round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 15, 2018 in Southampton, New York. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Tiger Woods still 'absolutely' sure he can win another major after missing U.S. Open cut

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods still 'absolutely' sure he can win another major after missing U.S. Open cut

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y –  Tiger Woods was heckled on Friday morning. Not like Pedro Martinez on the mound at old Yankee Stadium-type heckling, but enough to know he wasn’t in Florida anymore.

One U.S. Open spectator was particularly mean and to the point, shouting “Real nice, Ti-gah. Looking sharp,” after Woods left his tee shot 35 yards short of the hole in a greenside bunker at the par-3 second hole, his 11th of the day.

Loosely translated, that means “welcome back” in New York, where it looks like Woods was just making a short trip to Shinnecock Hills before heading home for the weekend.

“I’m not very happy the way I played and the way I putted,” Woods said. “I’m 10 over par. So I don’t know that you can be too happy and too excited about 10 over par.”

The projected cut was 9 over when Woods’ day ended at 1:07 p.m. ET, less than 24 hours after his tournament began, and highly unlikely to move in his favor.

The Quicken Loans National is on deck in two weeks, after which Woods will lay low until the British Open at Carnoustie July 19-22. He didn’t come close to contending in the first two majors of the year and it’s clearly frustrated him. That doesn’t mean he’s waving the white flag.

After his second-round 72 Friday, Woods was asked if he’s still convinced he can win majors.

“Absolutely,” he said.

Why?

“Have you seen the way I’ve been swinging?”

Jun 15, 2018; Southampton, NY, USA; Tiger Woods reacts after he tees off the fourteenth hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Shinnecock Hills GC - Shinnecock Hills Golf C. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Tiger Woods struggled early and often at the U.S. Open. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Very few saw him swinging at No. 10 to start the second round because it was cloudy and early, but those who did know Woods has major ammunition left. He hit a driving iron 307 yards off the tee, through the large fairway downslope, then stuffed a wedge inside three feet for a tap-in birdie.

After making the putt, he noticed the cup was ever-so-slightly misplaced in the hole. He called for a rules official and told him it needed to be fixed before the next group came through.

Nice of Woods to protect the fields he used to pummel on an weekly basis, back when missed cuts were national news rather than disappointing developments.

“They’re not easy,” Woods said. “I mean, I’ve won a few of them over the course of my career, and they’re the hardest fields and usually the hardest setups. So they’re meant to be testers and, you know, you don’t win major championships by kind of slapping all around the place and missing putts. You have to be on. And, you know, I’ve won a few majors in my career and every single one I’ve played well. And that just goes to the setup. You just can’t fake it at a major championship.”

Especially not when you’re struggling and every single shot is aired live. When Jason Day and Rory McIlroy are 10 over, you’ll likely see a birdie attempt or two and little else. It’s a point that bears repeating because Woods’ bad rounds are by far the worst professional rounds anyone witnesses in their entirety.

“He didn’t play that poorly,” said Justin Thomas, who was paired with Woods and moves on to the weekend at 4 over. “He just had, obviously, a couple bad holes for as hard as it played. And then today, again, he just kind of had a couple-hole stretch there that he struggled a little bit. … I don’t think you need me to tell you he’s not pleased, but I’m sure he’s closer than the score shows.”

Woods warmed up on the southernmost part of the range ahead of Thursday’s Round 1, with the player dining facility to his left and the ball distribution tent blocking him from view for most on the range. Camera operators scrambled to get whatever shot they could, but he was largely inaccessible.

Then it was go time for Round 1, a recently-shaky putter and some trouble with winds averaging 15-20 mph exposed for all to see. A brutal 8-over 78 was the result.

Tiger Woods began his round Friday on the 10th tee at 8:02 a.m. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

A 78 on Thursday meant Tiger Woods was all but doomed Friday. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Friday morning he sputtered after the hot start. It rained throughout much of the round, it was cold, and he fell to 12 over with a double bogey at one, bogey at two (real nice, Ti-gah) and another bogey at six.

The sun eventually shined near the end and he finished with consecutive birdies at eight and nine, a 17-footer for birdie at the last drawing a big roar in front of the Shinnecock clubhouse.

He took off his hat and shook Thomas’ hand, and the 25-year-old patted him on the back.

This definitely wasn’t Woods’ week. As of Friday afternoon there were only nine scores of double bogey or worse at No. 1 and Woods had two of them, playing the hole 5 over. A pair of pars there and he’s easily on to the weekend. A couple putts here or there and he’s right in the mix.

In reality, the margin for error is slimmest at major championships. That’s why, thrilling as it has been to watch Woods contend for titles again after two years off, he hasn’t come close during the two weeks that matter most.

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