PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – After just two rounds in the past month, Tiger Woods said he needs a break and will head back to Florida to rest up for the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs.
An admirable 1-under-par 70 that included bogeys on the last two holes at Royal Portrush on Friday meant a disappointing end to the major season for Woods, who after the jubilation of winning the Masters in April has played just four tournaments with little success.
The back problems that led to four surgeries in the past five years resurfaced, seemingly worse than at any time in the last two years that saw a resurgence to No. 5 in the world and two victories, including his 15th major championship.
“I just want some time off just to get away from it,” Woods said after finishing at 148, 6 over par, well off the 36-hole cut number. “I had a long trip to Thailand (for a family vacation after the U.S. Open) and then trying to get ready for this event, to play this event, it’s been a lot of travel, a lot of time in the air, a lot of moving around and different hotels and everything. I just want to go home.”
Woods said he didn’t feel much better than he did Thursday, when he made a single birdie and shot his highest opening round at The Open (78) and his worst since an 81 at the 2002 Open.
But he played far better, hitting 14 greens in regulation and several excellent longer shots. What seemed to plague him, again, were the shorter ones, the shots that require more bending and appear to put more pressure on the lower back area. Woods has often said the stance for those swings gave him the most trouble.
Over two days, Woods played the six par-5s in 2 over, failing to birdie any of them. He took 32 putts in each round.
“I kind of grinded my way around the golf course today,” he said. “I had a chance to get it back to even par for the tournament. I didn’t handle the par-5s well. I was in perfect positon on all three of them, if I handled those par 5s well I would be right there.”
Well, he would have been in the mix to make the 36-hole cut, which he failed to do in a major for the second time this year and 10th time in a major championship. Woods has now missed 20 cuts in his career on the PGA Tour (21 worldwide), three of those coming in the past two years.
Skipping next week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational is only a surprise when you consider how hard he pushed to make the tournament a year ago, when it was played at Firestone Country Club. Woods is now exempt for all of the World Golf Championship events – he’s won 18 of them – and next week’s tournament in Memphis would get him some warm weather and automatic world ranking and FedEx Cup points.
But it always seemed unlikely that Woods would compete five of six weeks, which this stretch would have required.
Instead, he will head home to Florida, with hopes of getting ready for a three-week stretch of FedEx playoff events that beings with the Northern Trust at Liberty National in New Jersey on Aug. 8.
“I’m going to take a couple of weeks off and get ready for the playoffs,” he said. “We’ve got the playoffs coming up, and anything can happen. Last year I almost stole the whole FedEx Cup at the very end. If it wasn’t for (Justin Rose) Rosie’s little break there at the bunker, it could have been interesting. So get ready for those events. And after that then have a break.”
Woods finished second in the FedEx Cup to Rose last year after winning the Tour Championship at East Lake, where he entered the event 20th in the standings. He presently is 23rd and will have some work to do at the first two playoff events at Liberty National and Medinah to assure a spot in the final event.
Once there, he will play under a different format that will not have a regular tournament winner, but only an overall FedEx Cup champ based on a strokes-based seeding system.
Following the Tour Championship late next month, Woods’ only scheduled events at this point are a PGA Tour event in Japan in October, the Hero World Challenge in early December and the Presidents Cup.
“I just have to continue doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I’ve gotten so much stronger over the past year working with my physios and trying to get my body organized so that I can play at a high level. It panned out; I won a major championship this year.
“It’s just a matter of being consistent. That’s one of the hardest things to accept as an older athlete is that you’re not going to be as consistent as you were at 23. Things are different. And I’m going to have my hot weeks. I’m going to be there in contention with a chance to win, and I will win tournaments.
“But there are times when I’m just not going to be there. And that wasn’t the case 20-some-odd years ago. I had a different body and I was able to be a little bit more consistent.”