The Open 2014: Toothless Tiger Woods struggles to get back in swing

Former world Number One has not been at his best since returning from back surgery

Royal Liverpool

It started and finished with birdies, but in between there was muck as well as brass, reminding Tiger Woods how much work needs to be done to marry outcomes to expectations.

Woods’s card was pockmarked with a six and a seven on the back nine. He had needed a birdie to make the weekend and, though not the worst performer yesterday, his 73 left him three over par, a long way short of requirements and those at the sharp end of this tournament.

“I made a lot of mistakes. I’ve made two doubles and two triples,” Woods said. “But on top of that I missed a lot of shots for opportunities for birdies, and consequently I’m three over.” This was only his second tournament since his return from back surgery in April. Today marks only his sixth competitive round.

The season picks up pace now, with the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational just a fortnight away, running immediately into the final major of the season, the US PGA at Valhalla, followed by the Fed-Ex Play-Offs. Woods will fancy his chances across the board, of course, no matter what the evidence tells us here.

 

“I’m starting to get the flow of the round, the flow of playing again. But still I’ve just made too many mistakes. You can’t run up high scores like that and expect to contend, especially when the conditions are this benign. Most of the scores are three under par or better. I certainly didn’t do that.”

Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose did, though McIlroy extinguished any chances they might have had while they were sipping their post-round cuppas. You have to hand it to McDowell. He was on his uppers on Thursday after a grinding 74, complaining about his complete inability to shape the cut shot against the wind. To listen to his defeatist lament you would have put the mortgage on him spending the weekend in Portrush with the parents.

Yet here he is, after rounds of 69 and 68, nibbling at the leaderboard on five under par.

“It gives me a good shot at something tomorrow, a solid top-10, top-five, maybe, with a good score,” he said. “That’s really all I can hope for from here, post something decent and take some good confidence from the last couple of days. I hit the ball much better again yesterday, and continued that today.”

Read more: McIlroy soars on the wings of eagles
McIlroy and Clarke praise 'great' R&A decision

Rose was left with a hefty sense of what might have been, recognising the course was there for the taking. His 69 was by no means shabby, with only one dropped shot, but the putter was not the friend he needed it to be yesterday.

“It was the easiest conditions I’ve had all week,” he said. “Obviously the rain was lashing down during the warm-up, but as we got to the first tee it really eased off. We had a couple of little showers out there, but for the most part it was really scorable, good golfing weather.

“My round yesterday was a much, much better round. Through the back nine today I gave myself chance after chance after chance. In links golf, great chances are 12 to 15 feet. I had tons of them on the back nine and missed all of them, really. I made a 20-footer on 17, which was nice, and then the birdie at the last. Too little too late.”

Luke Donald’s 71 was his best of the week and his first in red numbers, but after a run of three birdies in five holes to the turn it might have been even better. The double-bogey six at the tricky seventh hole, his 16th, summed up his tournament.

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