During his peak era, Tiger Woods’s worst-ever finish in a major tournament that immediately followed one of his grand slam wins was a tie for 28th at the 2002 British Open, when his hopes of a calendar-year grand slam were drenched by a third-round 81 amid the wind and rain at Muirfield.
The weather won’t be as dire during Friday’s second round of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, but Woods, the Masters champion, will need a herculean effort to pull himself back into contention after watching playing partner Brooks Koepka bend the course to his will with Thursday’s first-round 63, which was nine strokes better than Woods’s 72.
Missing the cut isn’t out of the question, either. At the start of Friday’s play, Woods’s score of 2 over par sat right on the cut line (the top 70 plus ties advance to the weekend; Woods began the day in a tie for 51st). At one point early Friday morning, however, the cut line had moved to 3 over par before returning to 2 over. In any case, Woods will probably know the score he needs to shoot by the time he tees off Friday in one of the last groups. That score almost certainly will need to be under par or close to it.
The conditions won’t help. Woods went off in the morning on Thursday, when the weather was more benign. On Friday he tees off at 1:49 p.m. Eastern, when the wind is scheduled to pick up a bit and there could be some showers.
Woods played only nine holes of practice golf at Bethpage Black this week in the run-up to the tournament, skipping an anticipated round on Wednesday to the surprise of observers. On Thursday, he revealed he was feeling under the weather.
“I wasn’t feeling that good yesterday, so I decided to stay home and rest,” Woods said Thursday. “I got a little bit sick, so I decided to stay home.”
But he added that his physical condition had nothing to do with his play Thursday, which included two three-putt bogeys on his second nine after a four-hole surge put him under par for the day.
“Yeah, I felt good,” Woods said.
Woods missed one cut at a major — the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills (also on Long Island) — during his comeback campaign last year. After the first round, he sat nine strokes behind the leaders, just as he sits nine holes behind Koepka entering play on Friday.