Tiger Woods missed a 36-hole cut for only the 10th time on the PGA Tour as he showed signs of rust from three months out of competition, shooting a 75 on Friday to miss the cut at the USPGA National by four strokes.
Right when he was poised to make a run, Woods made four straight bogeys on the back nine at Congressional.
He had back surgery to alleviated a pinched nerve on March 31 and had aimed to return for the British Open next month. Instead, he played the USPGA National because he felt strong enough, and because it benefits his foundation.
“I came back four weeks earlier than we thought I could,” Woods said. “I had no setbacks. I got my feel for playing tournament golf. I made a ton of simple, little mistakes — misjudging things and missing the ball on the wrong sides and just didn’t get up-and-down on little, simple shots. Those are the little things I can correct.”
Marc Leishman of Australia holed out from 127 yards on the par-five ninth hole for a birdie on his way to a five-under 66 and a four-way share of the lead going into the weekend.
Oliver Goss, another Aussie who is making his second pro start, had a bogey-free 66 and joined Leishman at six-under 136 along with Ricky Barnes (69) and Patrick Reed (68), who already has won twice this year.
Woods was 13 shots behind at seven-over 148.
He took two shots to get out of a plugged lie in a bunker on the fifth hole and made double bogey. He three-putted for par on the next hole and never looked more sloppy than on the short par-four eighth. He drove it to 61 yards from the hole, but took another four shots to hole it from there.
The worst damage came after consecutive bogeys around the turn. His tee shot went into a hazard on No. 11, hit a wild hook off the tee on the 12th, played a poor chip from below the green on the 13th and from the 14th fairway, he missed the green and hit another poor chip.
“The short game was off,” Woods said. “I’ve been practicing on Bermuda grass, and I grew the grass up at my house and it was Bermuda, but come out here and play rye, it’s totally different. And it showed. I was off. I probably should have spent more time chipping over on the chipping green than I did, but that’s the way it goes.”
Woods faces a dilemma in his efforts to get up to competition speed. He is not playing next week at The Greenbrier Classic because he is taking his children on vacation, and it might not be prudent to cram in a lot of play so soon after back surgery.
His next tournament would appear to be the British Open at Hoylake, where he won in 2006.
“I need to get back into competitive feel and just to feel it — to hit shots and shake some stuff off and see how things work,” he said. “One thing I was worried about was hitting driver at a competitive speed, and it was fantastic. I let it go and it was no problem at all, but I made so many little mistakes, which was something that I can rectify and get that fixed for the British.”
Ten players were separated by only two shots going into the weekend, and there was only a nine-shot differential from first to last place. Former US Open champion Justin Rose had 65 to get within three shots of the lead.