At the scene of so many of his glorious golf moments, Tiger Woods made history of a different sort Friday at Torrey Pines.
He missed the cut.
So much for returning to play for the first time in 17 months at a familiar locale, one where he had won eight times as a professional and once as an amateur, and where he had never played two rounds and failed to advance to the weekend.
Woods birdied his first hole Friday but managed only one more the rest of the day and finished with an even-par 72 on the easier North Course. His two-round total of four-over 148 left him four shots over the cut line.
More surprising this weekend will be the absence of Woods’ playing partners Thursday and Friday, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 1 and No. 3 players. They finished at three over and two over, respectively. Two other top-25 players also missed the cut, Rickie Fowler and PGA champion Jimmy Walker.
The top of the leaderboard didn’t change from Thursday, with Justin Rose maintaining a one-shot lead after a one-under 71 on the South Course gave him a two-round total of eight-under 136. Defending champion Brandt Snedeker (69, South) and Adam Hadwin (71, North) were tied for second, with Ollie Schniederjans (69, North) and Keegan Bradley (69, South) another shot back. Phil Mickelson was at one under, seven behind Rose.
The story the first two days, though, was Woods, who picked Torrey Pines for his return from back surgery. But, save for a brief moment in the middle of his round Thursday when he made consecutive birdies to get under par, he never looked like a threat.
Woods said he felt fine despite the cool, windy conditions Friday, and said he thought he hit the ball better than Thursday, when a six-hole stretch of four bogeys and a double bogey led to a 76. “Overall, today was a lot better than yesterday,” he said. “I hit a lot of beautiful putts that didn’t go in, but I hit it much better today, which was nice.”
He had company in his struggles, something Woods said he joked about with Day and Johnson.
“We all missed putts,” he said. “Just could never get that one to fall in. We were talking about it during the back nine today: We just need one to go in, like any of us, just one of us, just make one for the whole group and we can all get going. And none of us did.”
Woods said his long-range focus continues to be “the first full week in April,” referring to the Masters. “That’s where eventually I want to have everything come together.”
For now he’ll be testing his back on a 17-hour flight to Dubai for next week’s Dubai Desert Classic. Then comes a week off before playing consecutive weeks at the Genesis Open at Riviera (Feb. 16-19) and the Honda Classic in Florida.
“Playing tournament golf is a little bit different than playing with your buddies at home in a cart,” Woods said. “I need to get more rounds under my belt, more playing time, and that’s what I ‘m trying to do.
“I wish I could have been playing this weekend because I really love this golf course.”
The same applies to Snedeker, who has made more money at Torrey Pines than any golfer but Woods. He began the day three shots behind Rose, his playing partner, but he drew even after Rose made consecutive bogeys at 14 and 15. Rose grabbed the overnight lead, however, with a 10-foot birdie putt at 18, where Snedeker’s birdie chip hit the hole but did not drop.
“I didn’t drive it very good today,” Snedeker said. “Way to hang in there, make some key putts when I needed to and give myself a chance. I’m right where I love to be here on the weekend and this course isn’t getting any easier, so I’m looking forward to the weekend, the challenge it presents.”
Unlike Snedeker, Rose has never finished in the top 20 here, and he missed the cut the last two years. But he said Thursday this is one of his favorite courses on the PGA Tour.
“It’s a golf course you’ve got to stay patient on,” the Englishman said. “You’ve just got to hit good golf shots. You can’t really rake it around here, so it’s just about continuing to play well.”
With eight shots separating Rose and the other 78 golfers who made the cut, he said, “Pretty much everyone who’s made the cut is still in the golf tournament.”
Follow Jay Posner on Twitter @sdutPosner