Commentary

Tiger can't hide tough day at Doral

Originally Published: March 11, 2011
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

DORAL, Fla. -- If you could translate Tiger Woods' body language into words during Friday's round at the WGC-Championship, it would say, "Someone please stick a knitting needle in my eye."

Woods shot a 2-over-par 74, dropping him to even par for the tournament and nine strokes behind the leader, Hunter Mahan. Sorry, but at T-34, he's probably cooked.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesMemo to Tiger Woods: Don't drive (or chip or putt) angry. Woods was steamed by the results of his game Friday -- and it showed.

I saw Woods do things today that 22-handicappers do. I saw him snap-hook a drive on No. 2 that traveled, according to on-course measuring monitors, 122 yards. No way -- had to be closer to 90.

I saw him hit a 3-wood on No. 14 that went as high as a Fourth of July firework but no longer than a hotel hallway. That one produced some juicy Tiger language.

And I almost lost count of how many makeable putts he missed, as well as the exasperated and frustrated looks that came after the misses.

All in all, you didn't know whether to turn away or offer Woods a hug and a cup of warm buttermilk.

"I'm nine back," Woods said, when asked about his state of mind. "I'm not going to have a lot of fun being nine back."

No, there wasn't any danger of fun overload for Woods on Friday. He grinded more than an ax sharpener. To be honest, his round of 74 was actually a minor miracle.

"It's not the first time I've hit a snipe," Woods said of the hook from hell. "I did it at the Masters. It is what it is. I hit a bad shot -- no big deal."

It wasn't just a bad shot, but a horrific one. It's the kind of shot they run in the before split screen of an instructional video. It might easily be one of the top-three worst shots Woods has ever hit in competition.

"Yeah, it's pretty tough not to giggle," said Graeme McDowell, who, along with Phil Mickelson, was in Woods' group. "We all hit bad shots. Hit a couple of those in my time. You know, Tiger actually hit two tee shots today I would say, combined, didn't go farther than 200 yards."

Think about that for a moment. The greatest golfer of our generation hit a pair of tee shots that traveled only slightly longer than the par-3, 175-yard 15th hole.

"It was difficult following that," said Mickelson, sheepishly and sympathetically, of Woods' snapper on No. 2. "It's really not for me to talk about bad drives. It's not fair for me to even comment, because I've been there."

The "pop up," as McDowell called Woods' drive on No. 14, left Tiger more than 100 yards behind his two playing partners. It was the stuff of pro-ams.

Despite his driving troubles, Woods still ranks 10th in greens hit in regulation. But he's putting like he's using a crowbar. Only one other player in the field (Alvaro Quiros) is having a worse time on the Blue Monster's greens.

"If I just putt normal, I shoot 3- or 4-under par today," Woods said. "That's about how good it was."

I don't recognize this version of Woods. Even in the past, when he was installing new swings, he could sink putts. But on Friday, he missed seven putts from 9 feet or less.

"I feel great over the putts," he said. "I just can't hit the putts hard enough."

Woods said Thursday's rains changed the way the greens rolled. They were quick during his practice rounds, but slow since the storms came through. Unfortunately, he said, his putting stroke is still stuck on Wednesday.

It's been 16 months since Woods has finished first. Barring a comeback for the Tiger ages, this will be his 20th consecutive tournament without a victory.

"You got to keep grinding, keep working," he said. "I hit numerous good shots again today. Like I said, if I putt normal today, I'm 3- or 4-under par. It's not that bad."

But he didn't putt normal. And on two of those bizarre drives, he didn't hit normal.

Saturday is another day of his self-described "process." Woods will be paired with Mickelson. They tee off at 10:20 a.m., 2½ hours before the leaders.

Nothing normal about that.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.

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