BETHPAGE (New York) • As it turns out, magical comeback victories require more practice and rest time than Tiger Woods has had since he won the Masters last month for his 15th Major title.
The American former world No. 1 acknowledged after missing the cut at the PGA Championship on Friday that he had paid the price for not being adequately prepared for another Major quest in such a quick turnaround.
"Just did not feel well and just not able to do it," said the 43-year-old, who fired a three-over 73 to finish 36 holes on five-over 145, one stroke over the cut line, in his first competitive rounds since his emotional triumph at Augusta National.
"I just made too many mistakes and just didn't do the little things I need to do. I had a couple three-putts. I didn't hit wedges close. I didn't hit any fairways today. Did a lot of little things wrong."
After Woods' Masters victory, secured less than two years after undergoing a spinal fusion, the oddsmakers expected him to be a contender this week at Bethpage Black, where he won the 2002 US Open.
Instead, for the ninth time in his 76 Major starts, he failed to advance to the weekend. Six of his missed cuts in the Majors have come since he underwent the first of his back procedures in 2014.
HOW BAD WAS WOODS ON FRIDAY?
2 Wedges that came up short.
3 Fairways hit.
17 Strokes behind leader Brooks Koepka, who has a Major low of 128.
Before last week, he bypassed a tune-up event at the Wells Fargo Championship, citing mental fatigue from his Masters performance. And his preparation once he arrived in New York was curtailed by illness. Instead of playing the back nine in a Wednesday practice round, he chose to rest.
Woods had foreshadowed his struggles in a pre-tournament news conference, where he described "the fickle nature" of having his back fused.
Playing his second round in breezy, damp conditions, he looked out of sorts from his opening drive, which sailed left. He did not land a ball in the fairway off the tee until the ninth hole, and hit only three fairways for the round.
2ND ROUND (selected, USA unless stated)
128 Brooks Koepka 63 65
135 Jordan Spieth 69 66, Adam Scott (Aus) 71 64
136 Daniel Berger 70 66, Dustin Johnson 69 67, Kelly Kraft 71 65, Matt Wallace (Eng) 69 67, Luke
List 68 68
137 Justin Rose (Eng) 70 67
138 Danny Lee (Nzl) 64 74, Kang Sung-hoon (Kor) 68 70, Jazz Janewattananond (Tha) 70 68, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 67 71, Rickie Fowler 69 69, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 70 68
139 Xander Schauffele 70 69
140 Phil Mickelson 69 71, Matt Kuchar 70 70, Francesco Molinari (Ita) 72 68
141 Paul Casey (Eng) 70 71
142 Li Haotong (Chn) 73 69
143 Tony Finau 70 73, Rory McIlroy (Nir) 72 71, Jason Day (Aus) 69 74
144 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 76 68
145 Jon Rahm (Esp) 70 75, Sergio Garcia (Esp) 74 71, Tiger Woods 72 73
146 Patrick Reed 74 72
149 Pan Cheng-tsung (Tpe) 78 71
This, he warned, is his new normal. When he feels good, he can play very, very well, and when he is not, he might miss the cut.
"Some days I have more range of motion," he said. "Some days I don't. Some days I ache more, and sometimes I don't. There's more volatility."
He made 18 starts last season, which was six more than he had made in the previous three years combined. His 2018 season culminated with a victory at the Tour Championship, his 80th PGA Tour title but his first since 2013.
With his Masters title, he moved within one win of tying Sam Snead's record of 82 PGA Tour titles. It is hard to say when and where his pursuit of Snead will resume. Most likely it will be in two weeks at the Memorial Tournament, which is hosted by 18-time Major winner Jack Nicklaus.
Woods is a five-time winner of the tournament, but as he pointed out, he is in uncharted territory. He cannot practise as long or as hard as he used to, and his playing availability hinges on how his back holds up.
"That's going to be the interesting part going forward," he said at the start of the week. "How much do I play, and how much do I rest? I've got to be aware of that."
He finished 17 strokes behind leader and defending champion Brooks Koepka, who completed the lowest 36-hole showing in Major golf history to take a record seven-stroke lead after two rounds.
Koepka, seeking to capture his fourth Major title, fired a 65 to stand on 128.
The previous lowest halfway score was 130 and achieved by five players. The biggest 36-hole PGA lead had been Zimbabwean Nick Price's five-shot edge in 1994.
Grand Slam-seeking Jordan Spieth (66) and Adam Scott (64) were equal second on 135, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson (67) part of a group a further stroke behind.
NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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