- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Friday afternoon presented an all-too-familiar struggle for Tiger Woods, whose hallmark is playing for trophies and not struggling to make 36-hole cuts.
But there was Woods on the back nine of PGA National very much teetering on the edge of qualifying for the weekend or spending it at his nearby Jupiter home without a tournament in which to compete.
And at this point, Woods can use all the tournament rounds he can get.
A shaky start to 2014 continued with a 1-under-par 69 that helped Woods made the cut on the number at the Honda Classic but left plenty of questions about his game. He avoided missing the cut for just the 11th time in his worldwide career.
"It was a grind, there's no doubt about it,'' Woods said after finishing at even-par 140, 11 strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy. "I certainly grinded my way around this place today. I didn't hit it very good. Just one of those days where I fought out a number, which was good.''
Woods came into the Honda tournament looking to find some form after poor performances at Torrey Pines and Dubai. Woods was tied for 80th at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he missed the 54-hole secondary cut. At the Dubai Desert Classic, after an opening-round 68, he never could get on track and ended up in a tie for 41st.
It was the worst two-tournament start of his professional career. Woods never has failed to place in the top 20 in at least one of his first three official worldwide events. And nine times in his previous 17 years, he's won at least one of the first three tournaments.
Like at Torrey Pines, Woods again will face the prospect of a 54-hole cut. When more than 78 players make the 36-hole cut, the field is cut again to the top 70 and ties after the third round. Those who do not advance are credited with an MDF -- made cut, did not finish. They are still credited with a made cut, receive prize money and earn FedEx Cup points. But they don't compete on Sunday with the chance to move up the leaderboard.
That happened to Woods at Torrey Pines last month, where he shot a third-round 79.
"I was actually over the cut line, what after the bogey at 11,'' Woods said. "That was a hell of a bogey. I had a couple of loose iron shots coming in, and it was just a grind.''
If there is a bright spot for Woods, it was his short game around the greens. He saved par three times from bunkers and saved par on six of his last nine holes. He missed a 10-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole or he'd have birdied all four of the par 5s through two rounds.
"Yeah, the short game was spotty, and now it's good again,'' Woods said. "So now I just need my ballstriking to come around.''
Woods won five times last year on the PGA Tour, but his last victory came at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August. Since then, he has played in nine worldwide events, with three top-five finishes, including a playoff loss to Zach Johnson at the World Challenge in December.
But since returning from a six-week break at Torrey Pines, Woods has struggled to put 18 holes together. And Honda is another example. He hit 12 greens in regulation on Thursday but required 30 putts. He hit only nine greens Friday and putted much better, needing only 25. And he did hit 11 of 14 fairways in the second round, up from just eight on Thursday.
"I would like to obviously hit it better than I have been and especially today,'' he said. "I didn't hit it very good today. But, as I said, I fought out a number, which is always a good thing. Somehow would like to put together a good weekend. We're all bunched in there, anything can happen this weekend.''
The last time Woods missed the cut was the 2013 Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour. He has not missed the cut on the PGA Tour since the 2012 Greenbrier Classic.