Tiger Woods struggles but scores 68
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- On a day that saw Tiger Woods hit a spectator in the head with a tee shot, wrestle with his swing, miss his share of putts and generally struggle, he still managed to shoot 2-under-par 68 with birdies at his final two holes to comfortably qualify for the final 36 holes of the Honda Classic.
Woods was closer to the cut than to contention Friday, but he never thought about heading home for the weekend. Perhaps that is because this is now home -- Woods lives but a few miles away from PGA National.
But after knocking his tee shot in the water at the par-3 fifth hole Friday (his 14th hole of the round), Woods brought into play the very real possibility that he'd be hitting shots on the practice hole of his Jupiter Island residence this weekend.
Yet his two-birdie finish took care of those concerns.
"I told Joey (caddie Joe LaCava) on the last couple holes, we go birdie-birdie, we'll be within seven," said Woods, whose 3-year-old son, Charlie, was in the gallery along with Woods' mom, Tida. It's believed to be the first time Charlie has been at one of his dad's tournaments. "And that's really doable on this golf course. The guys don't really go all that low, so we if we post one (Saturday), we'll be right back in it."
Woods' remarks came before PGA Tour rookie Brian Harman shot 61, a course and tournament record by three strokes. Tom Gillis and Justin Rose lead the tournament at 8-under 132, putting them seven strokes ahead of Woods.
And yet the way Woods was playing, he made missing the cut a possibility after finding the water on his 14th hole and making double bogey.
"I got it going, lost it, got it going, lost it and then got it going," said Woods, who has missed just seven 36-hole cuts in his career, including three in the past four seasons. "It was a little bit of a fight today. Probably the worst I've hit the ball in months."
Going back to Australia in November, Woods has shown improvement in his new swing under coach Sean Foley. His ball-striking at the Australian Open, Presidents Cup and Chevron World Challenge, which he won, was solid, especially given that he missed four months last summer due to injuries.
Recently, the focus has been on mediocre to poor putting, but Friday it was a bit of everything. Woods missed a few makeable birdie putts, but on other holes he didn't give himself much of a chance. He hit just eight of 14 fairways and only 10 of 18 greens.
He had just 24 putts, which is a bit misleading because three times he putted from the fringe -- meaning that stroke does not count as a putt.
Woods also has failed to birdie any of the par-5s through two rounds (four total), although he did make five total for his second round.
"It was a grind," he said. "I didn't really have it today. But I scored. That's something I can take out of the round. I know I putted a lot better today. Finally got putts to the hole, and that was kind of the goal today, not leave one putt short, and wasn't quite successful at it, but that was certainly what I was trying to do."
As Woods has sought his first official victory in more than two years, he has struggled to either put entire rounds together or have a full 72 holes without various issues. So far, that has proven to be a challenge.
At the Australian Open, Abu Dhabi Championship and Pebble Beach, Woods had pure ball-striking rounds that saw him hit a lot of greens without making many putts. While he left several on the greens Friday -- and the double bogey ultimately kept him from a round that would be viewed differently -- he mostly struggled to give himself good chances.
"It's certainly a lot less stressful if you are striping it all day and two-putting and making an occasional birdie here and there," Woods said, "certainly a lot less stressful. But not feeling very good on the shots, how I'm going to manage a score, it puts a little added stress."
There wasn't much of that for Harman, who made it to the PGA Tour this year through the qualifying tournament and opened the tournament with a 73. Figuring he needed to go low to make the cut, Harman started firing at pins and started his round birdie-birdie-eagle.
When he stood on the 18th tee, he needed to eagle the par-5 hole to become just the sixth player in PGA Tour history to shoot 59.
"I had about 250 (yards) to the hole, usually a 3-wood, hit it on the back of the green and try to 2-putt," Harman said. "But today with a chance to do something really special, I tried to hit hybrid and got up in the wind a little bit and came up just a little bit short. I hit a pretty good shot. Obviously I was trying to do the magic number."
Meanwhile, Woods had headed to the range after the round, in search of his own magic.
Senior writer Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com.
MORE GOLF HEADLINES
- Tiger to rest sore elbow, skip AT&T National
- Tiger, McIlroy confirm play in Dubai in 2014
- Scott commits to Australian Open in November
- Travelers says Rose confirmed for Cromwell