Tiger Woods was nearly 17 for 18 in making cuts at the Memorial Tournament after shooting 76 and settling at 3 over after 36 holes of play at Muirfield Village. Prior to this week, Woods had played the weekend all 17 times he’d teed it up at this event and won it five different times. This weekend? He needed some late scores to go his way just to grab an early tee time on Saturday morning.
The top 65 golfers (and ties) make the cut, and it bounced between 2 over and 3 over throughout the day, eventually settling with those at 3 over tied at T64 in the field. In other words, if two more players had gotten to 2 over or better at the end of the day, Woods would have been going home.
For the first round and a half of his week, Tiger’s looked terrific from tee to green but rust permeated his short game, both around and on the greens at Muirfield Village. Then on his back nine on Friday (the front nine on the course), the swing went awry and Woods looked lost from tee to green and especially with drive in his hands. This was exacerbated by what seemed like a bit of a hitch in his gait at times. Nothing we haven’t seen before, but he clearly wasn’t feeling as fluid as he was at the start of the tournament.
“I wasn’t quite moving as well as I’d like and couldn’t quite turn back and couldn’t quite clear,” Tiger said of the end of his day. “It was a bit of a struggle. It started this morning during the warmup. It wasn’t quite as good as I’d like, and it is what it is.”
The interesting part about all of this is that Tiger’s actual non-driver swing — that is, the move he made from takeaway to impact — looked incredible for most of the week. This isn’t necessarily surprising as it also looked great at The Match: Champions for Charity back in May and often looks strong when he’s had a lot of time to rest. His strokes gained on approach shots numbers were excellent for the most part (he’s No. 2 in the field currently), but every other aspect of his game suffered. He’s currently outside the top 95 in this field in driving, and play around and on the greens. It’s not a great formula.
Mistakes seemed to compound, too. Tiger, normally the most resilient player in the world, made two bogeys in three holes on Thursday, and then played a nine-hole stretch on Friday in 6 over. Maybe this is a consequence of the rust from not having played a high-level event in so long, or maybe he just hit a couple of bad shots. Regardless of what caused these slides, they quickly took him out of the tournament.
Woods said after his round that as he gets older, playing four straight days at the highest level gets harder.
“I don’t have the same type of stamina as I used to have, that’s four sure,” said Woods. “When I was training hard and running and all that stuff. Granted, I’m a lot older now, so things change, they evolve. Energy, you try to suck it up as best you can and get through it. Early on in my career, I thought [getting older] was fantastic because I was getting better and better and better, and now I’m just trying to hold on.”
Woods did make two birdies in his last three holes, and got up and down 101 yards at the last for par to settle at 3 over. He showed some grind at the very end on Friday just to see two more tee times this weekend. A missed cut would have been such an unusual outcome for him, too. With a miss on Friday, he would have had just 21 missed cuts over the course of his career, which is six more than he has major championships. Astounding numbers for somebody who has played for as long as he has.
Tiger won’t win his 83rd golf tournament this weekend to tie Sam Snead’s all-time record, but he will get some important reps under his belt before the PGA Championship in under three weeks. That’s why making this cut was so important The PGA will almost certainly be the next tournament he plays, and he didn’t want to go into that with just two rounds played since February. There are plenty of things to watch for this weekend with Woods — his back, his swing, his grind, his score and his finish — but unfortunately for him, a sixth win at Jack Nicklaus’ tournament is not going to be one of them.