Tiger Woods misses the cut as a crowd forms near the top of the leaderboard at the Genesis Open
Patrick Cantlay, Graeme McDowell and Sam Saunders lead the field at seven under par after the incomplete second round of the Genesis Open at tricky, penal Riviera Country Club.
But they’re hardly creating any distance between themselves and their followers. Behind them are 48 golfers within seven shots of the lead.
One of those players is not Tiger Woods.
Woods, in his second tour event of the year as he tries to get reaccustomed to tournament golf after effectively being off for 2 1/2 years, shot a five-over-par 76 Friday that included four bogeys in six holes on the back nine. He missed the projected cut of two over par by four strokes and will continue his comeback tour next week at the Honda Classic in Florida.
“I didn’t really play that well today,” he said. “I missed every tee shot left and I did not putt well.”
One of his biggest adjustments is getting used to the rigors of competitive golf again.
“It’s so different playing tournament golf versus playing at home,” he said. “I’ve just got to play more tournaments.
“Riding in the cart just doesn’t do it. Like one of the days at home we played 45 holes and it’s just not the same…. Then also the ebbs and flows of tournament adrenaline….
“I’m starting to get a feel for tournament golf again. I just need to clean up my rounds.”
Play was called because of darkness with 15 players still on the course.
Cantlay, who shared the first-round lead, shot a two-under 69, and McDowell shot a 66, tied for best round of the tournament. Saunders still had three holes remaining when play was stopped.
Ryan Moore shot his second consecutive 68 and is one behind the leaders, and Tony Finau (71) and Scott Stallings, still with two holes to play, are two off the pace.
Like virtually everyone in the field, though, those leaders were left bruised by the firm, bumpy greens and green complexes that can be extremely penal on shots that might be only a bit off line. The three leaders had six bogeys and a double bogey among them.
“I don’t know that I’ve played any course where good shots are more rewarded and bad shots are more penalized,” Saunders said.
Said McDowell: “Those greens are firm and fast. I think it’s taken a few of the guys by surprise just how quickly this golf course can get away from you.”
Rory McIlroy, whose 69 left him at two under and tied for 15th, said, “No one’s getting away out there. It’s very tricky, it’s very U.S. Open-like conditions. Greens are really firming up, getting shiny.”
Maybe it’s no coincidence that McIlroy, McDowell, Retief Goosen (tied for 11th), Martin Kaymer (tied for 15th) and Jordan Spieth (tied for 26th) have won U.S. Opens. That didn’t help Woods, who has three Opens but no wins at Riviera.
It might be time to put yellow caution signs on every tee, reinforcing the notion that playing safe and conservatively can be much less expensive than playing aggressively. There are a lot of birdies available at Riviera; a lot of bogeys too. Chez Reavie was the only player to record a bogey-free round Thursday; Cameron Smith (68) and Kaymer (67) were the only two players who completed Round 2 without a bogey.
“I hit a lot of smart shots,” Cantlay said. “Sometimes you can make a bogey around this place and that’s just going to happen. The golf course is tough and it’s tricky. You’ve just got to accept it and move on.”
Bubba Watson, whose 70 left him at four under and three off the lead, echoed that the greens present a continual challenge: “Around here it’s very difficult….You’ll hit a chip shot or an iron shot that you think is great, hits a little bounce and goes opposite, or your putt does that. You’ve got to just keep fighting and hopefully you make more birdies than bogeys.”
He added: “You know, there was a great champion that went bogey free on the weekend one time.” Watson, in fact, played his final 39 holes without a bogey on the way to his victory in 2014. He also won in 2016.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson (another U.S. Open winner) hit 14 of 18 greens, eight more than he did in his opening-round 74, played his final 10 holes in three under without a bogey and shot 69 to survive the cut at one over. Phil Mickelson, still struggling with his driver (he hit only two of 14 fairways) managed a 70 and is at one under.
“It’s sort of anyone’s tournament right now,” McIlroy said. “Thirty-six holes around here? It’s a lot of golf.”
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