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Friday, August 24, 2012
Back woes shouldn't detour Tiger

By Farrell Evans
ESPN.com

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Every time Tiger Woods does one of his patented grimaces after a tee shot or one of his careful kneel downs to reach into the cup for his ball, it sets off alarm signals in the golf world.

Could this be another injury to bench the game's biggest attraction? What's wrong with Tiger? Not again!

Tiger's injuries have become a part of his lore over his 16 years as a pro. His winning the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines with stress fractures in his left leg personified what it means to play hurt. We know his painful grimaces as well as we know his toothy smiles. You could narrate his career through those two facial expressions.

On Friday in the second round of The Barclays, Tiger was hurt again. He attributed a stiff back that plagued him during his second-round 69 to a soft hotel mattress.

I know his pain. On occasion I have had to endure similar issues in my travels to PGA Tour events. I prefer a firmer bed, but I don't need it to be as hard as the floor that Tiger says he will sleep on Friday night.

Let's hope Tiger gets that back in order in the fitness trailer and finds a more suitable sleeping arrangement, because this weekend promises to produce some exciting golf.

At 5 under par, Tiger is only 3 shots back of the leaders, Sergio Garcia and Nick Watney. Vijay Singh is a shot off the lead after a 4-under-par 67 on Friday. All 75 players who made the 36-hole cut are within 9 shots of the lead.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods gingerly takes a look at a putt during the second round of The Barclays on Friday. Despite the injury, Woods managed a 2-under-par 69 and stands tied for seventh at the halfway point of the PGA Tour playoffs opener.

The FedEx Cup isn't major championship pressure, but Woods has to be a little nervous heading into the weekend, a period in tournaments that hasn't always been kind to him this year. At the four majors, he played miserably in the final two rounds. In 15 PGA Tour events in 2012, Woods has had only four occasions where he shot under par in both the last two rounds.

This is an embarrassing statistic for a player who's won 74 tournaments, including 14 majors.

It's hard to know what accounts for this mediocrity on the weekend. Could it be nerves or fatigue or the wrong mental outlook?

At the PGA Championship, Woods admitted to a mental mistake in the third round that he said probably cost him a tournament.

"I was too relaxed," he said about the 40 he shot on the first nine, "and tried to enjoy it, and that's not how I play. I play intense and full systems go.

"I'm intense and I'm focused on what I'm doing and nothing else matters."

For all his faults, Tiger has always been true to himself on the golf course through injuries and that personal mess that nearly ruined him. As much as it would be nice to see him enjoy himself more on the golf course, like a Matt Kuchar or Fuzzy Zoeller, Tiger is a grinder in the mold of Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo.

This weekend he should play his game and try to get a good night's sleep on a firm mattress.