FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – A common phrase this year – “Tiger’s back” – took on a new meaning Friday at The Barclays.
Woods felt a twinge in his lower back when he awoke and felt pain throughout the second round at Bethpage Black. He overcame a bogey-bogey start, struggled in the simple task of retrieving the ball from the cup and stayed within three strokes of Henderson resident Nick Watney and the resurgent Sergio Garcia, who shared the lead going into the weekend.
As many injuries as Woods has gone through the past two years, the way he grimaced and walked gingerly made it look as if this could be another.
But that wasn’t the case.
“Must have slept funny on it,” Woods said. “Soft beds at the hotel, and woke up this morning with it stiff. As I warmed up, it got progressively worse, and then you saw what happened on the golf course. It hurt all day.”
He managed a 2-under-par 69, a good effort in the afternoon on greens that tend to get crusty.
More impressive were Garcia and Watney, also playing in the afternoon as they worked their way up the leaderboard. Garcia, who ended a four-year drought on the PGA Tour last week by winning the Wyndham Championship, made bogey on the third hole with what he called his worst swing of the week and atoned for that with a tee shot on the par-5 fourth that restored his momentum and sent him to a 68.
Watney, whose season has been so dismal that he isn’t even in the Ryder Cup conversation as a potential pick, went eagle-birdie on the par 5s on the front nine and then survived a roller coaster of birdies and bogeys on the back nine that gave him a 69.
They were at 8-under 134.
Vijay Singh, who last won a PGA Tour event in 2008 when he captured the opening two playoff events and sailed to the FedEx Cup title, played bogey-free for a 67 and was one shot out of the lead, along with Bob Estes, who had a 66. John Senden (68) and Pat Perez (70) were another stroke back at 6-under 136.
Rory McIlroy noticed Woods wincing on the opening tee shot. About an hour later, McIlroy felt his own pain with sloppy mistakes during a four-hole stretch, three of them bogeys, that left him outside the cut line. But not for long. The PGA champion bounced back with an 18-foot birdie putt on the ninth, added two more birdies and had a 73.
The cut was at 1-over 143, ending the FedEx Cup playoffs for the likes of Robert Allenby, Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and Heath Slocum, who narrowly got into the 125-man field at the start of the playoffs.
Garcia didn’t look as though he would be around the PGA Tour’s version of a postseason until winning last week in North Carolina by using a local club caddie and then showing no signs of a letdown at Bethpage Black while using a CBS Sports spotter on the bag.
Watney hasn’t given himself many chances this year, but if his game isn’t coming around, at least his attitude is.
“If a football team is struggling, they win one game, it’s not really a success,” Watney said. “But in golf if you’re struggling, you win one tournament, all of a sudden … I don’t know how Sergio was playing, but he wins last week, and he’s right up there again this week. He’s climbing the rankings and all that stuff.
“Golf is funny in that way. Just a couple little things here and there, and all of a sudden you’re playing great.”