Pink Floyd’s pigs will be flying over Battersea Park again. Tiger Woods still thinks he can win The Open. He’s two over par and just the 14 shots behind runaway leader Rory McIlroy. “Making the cut still gives me a chance,” he said after a dismal round of five-over-par 77, his worst second-round score in the majors as a professional.
Tiger is talking the talk and that’s to be admired. But he’s not walking the walk. Not this week anyway. He had to hole a seven-foot birdie putt at the last, his only birdie of the day, to ensure he would be among the dawn-chorus players on Saturday.
“Luckily, I’ve got two rounds to go,” Woods said. “Hopefully I can do something like Paul [Lawrie] did in 1999. He made up 10 shots in one day.” Unfortunately for Woods, it’s McIlroy not Jean van de Velde leading.
It was truly a Black Friday for Woods. Clad head to toe in the regulation colours of the bad guy gunslingers of the old Wild West, Tiger’s clothes matched his mood and game. His front nine, once again, soon turned into a funeral procession and there would be no resurrection on the back nine. He was appropriately dressed for the occasion.
After starting his first round with bogeys at the first and second, he wouldn’t be so trigger happy as to shoot himself in the foot again, would he? This time he put a bullet through both feet. Double bogey, bogey, three shots dropped, back to even par inside 25 minutes.
He hit a driver at the first but it looked rushed. His ball hooked left, zooming over the spectators and coming to rest in the knee-length crop of Weetabix growing adjacent to the 18th fairway. “Joey, just give me a number,” Woods said to his caddie before grabbing a pair of clubs and heading into the rough like a weekend hacker who hadn’t a clue of the yardage to the hole from such uncharted territory. Except weekend hackers can’t follow that up with this: “Hey guys, I’m gonna hit over your heads.” He took four shots to find the green then two-putted for a bogey six. He turned away in disgust, pursed his lips, blew out his cheeks, shut his eyes and no doubt muttered some saucy Anglo-Saxon under his breath.
Just to share the love among his army of fans, he sliced his tee shot off the second tee and again went wandering off into Hoylake’s deep jungle. The only thing that could have made his day worse would have been to find Ant and Dec greeting him in pith helmets. “I’m a celebrated golfer, get me out of here.”
Tiger’s body language suggested he was tired of this nonsense. He was walking slowly, his hips and shoulders swaying, his bones creaking. He was hitting his ball so far off line, the ol’ gunslinger could have moseyed into one of Hoylake’s pubs in the tented village, thrown his cap on the bar and said: “I’m looking for the man that shot my par.” Bogey at the second.
At the third his approach raced through the green, requiring a delicate chip out of yet more rough. Just for a second it looked like he had duffed it and there was a collective intake of breath from those crammed around the green. But he had judged it to perfection. Par saved, rot stopped. He’d found his par, alright – all 14 of them in a row until his humiliation was complete hitting out of bounds at the 17th and enduring the walk of shame back to the tee. Triple bogey.
There was a giant plastic octopus in the garden of a red brick house by the fifth tee. It was in the shade, obviously. Woods looked like he would rather be in it, under the sea. Boom went his driver – 30 yards right again. Not so much a power fade, more a weak slice. The way his day was panning out, he couldn’t have been in a worse spot. He was amongst the fish and chip stalls and jacket potato sellers and the punters spilling out of the Open Arms pub. Let’s just say the majority there hadn’t been refreshing themselves on ice cream and lemonade. As if that wasn’t noisy enough for Tiger, trying to play a miracle shot surrounded by the sozzled and the sunburned with heads like over-ripe tomatoes, his caddie and the marshals had to yell at everyone to put away their smart phones. A reasonable request in many parts of the course, but poor Tiger’s ball had landed in the middle of a mobile device zone.
How Woods kept his cool in the stifling heat and thrash a ball through a tunnel of overly excited golf fans with little regard for a rock-hard missile whistling past their ears at 125mph speaks volumes for the genius of the 14-times major champion. They whooped and hollered and spilled their Stellas as the Man in Black fizzed his stellar shot to the front edge of the green. Another par but it should have been a birdie at the par-five.
Woods has been saying all week that he is fitter, stronger, and faster after his back surgery at the end of March. He really is golf’s bionic man. They have rebuilt him. Golf’s original Man in Black, nine-time major champion Gary Player, criticises the tweaking with Woods’s swing to accommodate his numerous injuries. “If Tiger was playing anything like he was at his best, there’s no one close to him,” Player said. “But he’s not. And these young chaps have come along and they’re not scared of him. If he hadn’t changed his swing after winning the 2000 US Open by 15 shots, I believe he would have won at least 24 majors by now,” Player said.
But maybe all Tiger needs to do is lighten up and be less uptight. He could start with his outfit. His black shirt was so figure-hugging it looked like he had chosen it from Nike’s scuba-diving range.