With Tiger Woods expected to make the cut, what’s next?

LOS ANGELES — After dazzling the crowd with three straight reeds in the last three holes at the Riviera Country Club on Thursday to score a 2-under in his first round of the PGA Tour in over 844 days, it looked like it was for Tiger Woods on Friday. a little differently. He 3-over 74 and finished the first two rounds 1-over. It’s still enough for him to make the cut.

Given the seven-month hiatus since his last competitive round of golf at The Open, cutting Woods would have been no small feat. Our experts evaluate his return to competitive golf:

How did Woods look on Friday compared to Thursday?

Mark Schlabach: In terms of walking and swinging, not much has changed from Thursday to Friday. I think playing Friday wasn’t as much fun and he didn’t seem to interact as much with his playmates Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy as he did the day before. Woods seems to have decided to chat with the fans. I think his frustration with what he bet probably robbed him of some of the adrenaline he had in the first round. I couldn’t believe Woods actually admitted he had butterflies and nerves on Thursday.

Gender Objects: Woods didn’t seem to be as noticeably worse when he walked the Riviera on Friday, but when the birds stopped falling on the back nine, he seemed to slow down his walk a bit. Having missed the fairway right on the ninth hole (his last hole of the day), he was the last to fairway in his group, and he seemed to take his time with every step. Considering the transition from Thursday to Friday was quick and, Woods said, required a lot of ice and overnight treatment, it’s no surprise that he could slow down and experience more discomfort in the second round. Endurance will continue to be his biggest test this week and beyond.

How much did playing with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas help him?

Schlabach: I think it was the absolute best pair Woods could ask for to get his competitive juices flowing again. He seems to really enjoy poking JT and Rory as he hits the ball past them. They are unhappy that the 47-year-old, who has had multiple surgeries on his back, neck, knees and right leg, can still kick the ball past them.

Objects: We see a lot. Maybe it’s because of the long absence from the game or the fact that Woods is at a different stage in his career, but he seemed more willing to admit how much fun he played with his two closest friends, as well as a friend of Thomas. . Caddy, Jim “Bones” McKay.

“It was an incredible couple to have these two great guys and two great bag loops,” Woods said. “Bones and Joey [LaCava] come back forever, so it was a lot of fun.”

What is he doing well?

Schlabach: After all his operations, I think it’s absolutely remarkable that Woods is still averaging over 300 yards from the tee. Most players in their 40s don’t shoot that far, even those who haven’t experienced the health issues that Woods has. In the second round, he had 364 yards on the third and 15th holes and 325 yards on the first.

In the first two rounds, Woods averaged 301 yards from the tee, which would be close to being in the top 25 players. McIlroy, one of the longest hitters on the tour, averaged 310.5 yards. Thomas averaged 295.8.

On Friday, Woods’ ball speed was between 170 and 180 mph. He said he can no longer push off the ground to cause an explosion due to his surgically reconstructed right leg, foot and ankle. He uses a lot of body strength, but must do so carefully due to the fused back.

“Technically there are things where we found this work, but if I try to step on it and use the ground, it won’t happen again,” Woods said. “But if I step on it and engage my core too much, then my back is not very good. I have to be very careful how I do it. But yes, this is what I did at home, this is the speed with which I hit him. I don’t have high speed like some of these guys, like two guys in my group, they can hit the ball and send it. I don’t have it because the restrictions are in my back and leg.”

Objects: His driver is still driving very far. Woods is tied for 25th in driving distance this week and is keeping up with his teammates, both of whom are hitting the ball far. As Woods explained after Friday’s round, his lower body can no longer push off the ground to run more distance, but with careful use of his core, he can still get the ball up to 180 mph and hit the ball far enough. It also helps that Riviera plays in such a way that the ball gets a good roll out. You can see why Woods wanted to make this tournament his debut.

What doesn’t work for him?

Schlabach: After a seven-month hiatus, you should have realized that Woods’ money clubs—his clubs and wedges—are probably a little rusty. So it’s no surprise that his work around and on the greens left a lot to be desired. Woods did not think his shooting weaknesses were the result of technical problems. Rather, he simply blocked them and missed. He said they were bad shots. He didn’t hit the fairways that often (11 of 28), but it’s hard for anyone to do that on the Riviera.

Objects: Put. Woods lost almost two hits from a bet on Friday after picking up two hits on Thursday. He said after his Friday round that he was just throwing bad punches all day. Nowhere was this more evident than on the sixth field. After his tee shot rolled back to the front of the green, Woods contemplated using a wedge to drive it over the bunker that is in the center of the green. He then grabbed his club and started placing it in the bunker and finishing with the scarecrow.

“I blocked a lot of punches early,” Woods said. “And that is probably the highest score I could score today. I could probably easily score five or six more than I do now.”

What is the most realistic outcome of his weekend?

Schlabach: According to research by Sportzshala Stats & Information, this is the eighth time that Woods has reduced the number of participants in the tournament since 2015. His best finish on the previous seven occasions was 11th at The Players in 2018. Woods would never admit it, but the last 36 holes depend less on where he finishes than how he finishes. Even if he doesn’t compete on Sunday, playing this weekend is a great chance for him to test the strength and endurance of his surgically reconstructed right leg and ankle. He hasn’t played 18 holes in an official tournament since the Masters in April. This is the kind of test he needs as he continues his comeback.

Objects: While Woods remains adamant that he’s only doing it to win, that’s no longer a realistic target this weekend, given he’s 11 shots behind the leader, Max Homa. Shooting below standard for his first four rounds this season would have been an outstanding achievement given the situation and although I think it will be very difficult, it is an achievable goal. He’s only one out of 36 holes, and aside from injury or forfeiting, he’s got a chance.


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