PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods punched the air with his fist when he rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on his final hole, and then gave another punch when he snatched the ball from the cup. It's been awhile since he made a putt that mattered.
This was to make the cut.
Woods didn't have a great round Friday in The Players Championship. The cause of celebration with his final birdie Friday was it all but assured he would play two more. Woods had a 1-under 71, leaving him eight shots behind Kevin Na among the early finishers in the second round.
"I feel like I'm playing well enough to get myself up there," Woods said. "I just need one good round and narrow up that gap between myself and the lead, and I feel like I can do that."
It was only the third time Woods has made the cut against a full field since the start of 2014.
There has been no shortage of birdies — 11 of them through two rounds. There has been an equal amount of mistakes, even from the fairway.
And there was one moment when he looked like the Woods of old.
His ball was on a slope toward the bunker well left of the green at No. 7 toward the end of his round. He thought about pitching out toward the middle of the green some 50 feet away. Instead, he squatted, swung hard and grunted with the blade of the club laid open and ran it by the hole some 6 feet away. It was a high-risk shot, though Woods wanted to be sure any mistake would leave the ball short to give him a reasonable chance at making no worse than bogey.
"I took the chance and I made sure I entered the ground a little bit earlier to make sure I fatted it. If I missed it, it was going to be short," he said.
So was it perfect or was it fat?
"I did both," Woods said with a smile.
Trouble is, he missed the putt. That's one part of his game that has been lacking over the past few years. He spent what seemed to be an entire career making everything, and those days appear to be memories. Maybe that's why the putt on the par-5 ninth was so important.
There was a reasonable chance the cut would go to 1-over 145 by the end of the day as sun kept baking a course that was getting firmer. Woods wanted to leave nothing to chance. He has never missed the cut at the TPC Sawgrass when completing 36 holes.
"Know that I had to make 4 to move on — at least assure myself to move on — it felt good," Woods said.
He was equally pleased with the shot into the green, hitting a soft pitching wedge from 103 yards that would hold in the wind and release to the back of the green. It was progress for Woods, even though his game looks not much different from so many others.
"I haven't gotten anything out of my rounds. That's the thing," Woods said. "I should be a few under par each day, and I'm just not capitalizing on my opportunities. And I need to start doing that."