It’s not hard to figure out why he’s leaving early.
“On this golf course it’s imperative that you hit fairways, and I did not do that,” Woods said. “The whole goal of entering an event is to win, and when I don’t give myself that opportunity over the weekend, it doesn’t feel good.”
Woods hit just five fairways on Friday, one fewer than he did on Thursday. The 11 fairways in two days ranked 69th in the field. On Friday, as Winged Foot played tougher because of firm conditions and swirling winds, Woods made five bogeys and two double bogeys. Two late birdies, long after the cut line was out of reach, made the final number a little better.
“It was frustrating that I didn’t drive the ball as well as I needed to,” he said. “It’s frustrating that I’m not going to be here for the weekend and be able to compete for this great championship. It feels like the way the golf course is changing, is turning, that anybody who makes the cut has the opportunity to win this championship. I didn’t get myself that opportunity.”
“After that, take a little break,” he said. “And then refocus and get back after it.”
Woods has two title defenses looming. The Zozo Championship, which he won a year ago in Japan but was relocated this year to Sherwood Country Club in California, begins Oct. 22. In November, he returns to Augusta National as the reigning Masters champion.
“There’s still one more major to go, and my title defense at [the Zozo],” he said. “We have a couple big, big things ahead of us.”
Woods struggled in the five events in which he competed since golf’s return after the shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. A tie for 37th at last month’s PGA Championship was his best finish. In 18 rounds, he posted a score in the 60s just four times. He wasn’t in the top 50 in either of the two FedEx Cup playoffs events he played; he did not qualify for the Tour Championship for a second consecutive year.
The worst round of the bunch, though, came Friday at Winged Foot, when he flirted with shooting a score in the 80s. Starting on the back nine, he opened with four consecutive pars before his first misstep, a bogey at the par-4 14th. A double at No. 16 and another at the 18th gave him a first-nine 40. He bogeyed four of his first six holes on his second nine, putting the cut far out of reach.
“It’s never easy to not be playing for the championship on the weekend,” Woods said.