DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Tiger Woods has won a record five times at the Memorial Tournament by making great shots that more than erased any mistakes along the way.
He’ll have to do that again to dig himself out of a deep hole and defend his title.
Woods fought gusting winds, an occasionally errant shot and a balky putter during a second-round 2-over 74 on Friday, making the cut but leaving a lot of ground to make up on the weekend.
“All in all it was a day I fought hard and that’s all I got,” Woods said after finishing 36 holes at 1-over 145 — 10 shots back of early second-round leader Bill Haas.
There are a lot of reasons why Woods has not dominated like he so often does at Muirfield, where he’s won more than $5 million in his 13 appearances.
Typically, he owns the par-5 holes. He was 8 under on them a year ago while finishing 9 under to hold off Andres Romero and Rory Sabbatini by two strokes.
This year, he’s only even-par on them after the first two rounds.
The most costly error was a messy double-bogey at the reachable par-5 15th, a hole that he birdied three times in winning a year ago but on which he is 3 over so far in the two times he’s played it. He pulled a wind-blown second shot left of the green onto a hillside, chipped through the green, lipped out a short pitch and three-putted from 7 feet.
“It’s the way this golf course is playing right now,” Woods said. “You have to take advantage of certain holes, the downwind holes for sure. Some of the par-5s are playing a little more difficult than others, but you can shoot a round under par here.
“You just have to really play well.”
So far, he hasn’t met his own lofty standards. After his opening 71, Woods said he wasn’t happy with his accuracy with an iron in his hands.
In blustery conditions on Friday, he and playing partners Keegan Bradley and Fred Couples each struggled to figure out the swirling winds. At the par-3 fourth, Woods and caddie Joe LaCava deliberated for a full minute on what club to use on the 181-yard hole. He ended up with a relatively easy two-putt par.
At his final hole, the difficult ninth, Woods drove to an ideal location in the heart of the fairway and had a lofted club to the green. But a burst of wind knocked the ball down as it came out of a chute of trees that line the fairway and it came up short of the green. Woods then flopped on a flop shot, leaving the ball in the rough, before chipping onto the green and making a bogey.
“With a couple of holes left, I felt like I had a good chance to at least get to even-par for my round,” Woods said. “I caught a huge gust on the last hole and barely got over the water.”
Woods is usually primed for the weekend at the Memorial. In his wins, he has been on the lead or within two shots four times through 36 holes.
But in 2009, he had to make a charge after trailing by six strokes while tied for 24th going into Saturday. He shot a 68 in the third round to cut his margin to four strokes, then closed with a sterling 65 to hold off Jim Furyk by a shot.
Despite the gap he faces this year, Woods does not believe he cannot win. He never does.
Asked if he ever looks back at the midpoint of a tournament and wonders if it just isn’t his week, he smiled and said, “I haven’t won every tournament I’ve played in.”
Left unsaid was that he never concedes anything at a place where he has such a remarkable track record.
“We’ll see what happens,” he added.
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