La Jolla, United States | AFP | Tiger Woods birdied his final hole on Friday capping a back-nine rally that saw him make the cut in his return to the US PGA Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open.
The 14-time major champion wrestled four birdies from his last nine holes on the North Course at Torrey Pines, carding a one-under par 71.
That was just enough to make the cut — his first since the Wyndham Championship in August of 2015 where he finished tied for 10th.
Since then Woods has battled back trouble that sidelined him for all of 2016. He is playing his first official tournament since missing the cut here last year in an abortive comeback bid that ended with spinal fusion surgery in April.
“I was grinding my way around the golf course today,” said Woods, who hit just three of 14 fairways and nine of 18 greens in regulation. “I fought hard. I was trying to post a number, which I was able to do.”
Woods was one shot outside the cut line when arrived at his final hole, the par-five ninth.
He was in the right rough off the tee and his second shot left him on the edge of the green, 75 feet from the pin.
He nestled his first putt a few feet from the cup and made that for the needed birdie — capping a 71 for a total of 143 and offering a big smile to cheering fans.
Woods was 10-shots off the 36-hole lead held by American Ryan Palmer, who carded a five-under par 67 on the North Course for 11-under 133.
Spain’s defending champion Jon Rahm, who could seize the world number one ranking from Dustin Johnson with a victory, carded a six-under 66 and was alone in second on 134.
Luke List carded a 66 to share third place on 135 with first-round leader Tony Finau, who carded a 70.
Woods had opened the tournament on Thursday with a respectable even-par 72 on the South Course — scene of his 14th and most recent major title at the 2008 US Open.
But he struggled off the tee all day — sending his first drive at least 50 yards left.
He laid up in the rough and two-putted for par at the par-five 10th from about 40 feet.
But he couldn’t get out of trouble at the par-four 13th, his fourth hole of the day, after another tee shot went left into a scrub hazard.
An irked Woods took an unplayable lie, then missed the green. His chip rolled through the putting surface and he walked off with a double-bogey that put him two-over and outside the cutline.
– Solid turnaround –
Woods responded with four birdies coming home.
He gave his massive gallery — sent scampering several times by his errant drives — something to cheer about for the first time all day when he rolled in a 50-foot birdie bomb at the first hole.
“It was nice to get one to fall in there and get something positive going into the back nine,” Woods said.
He got back to even par with a birdie at the fifth, a short par-five, where a solid drive trickled into the first cut of rough and his second shot left him off the green but his chip left him an easy birdie.
“My short game’s been good all week,” Woods said. “I’m just trying to get used to the firmness of the greens. We can hear the ball land from the fairway.”
Woods got up and down for birdie at the seventh, but was back outside the cut line after a bogey at the par-three eighth.
“I was just trying to get under par for the day,” he said of his inward push. “I thought that would be a good, solid turnaround from being two-over at the turn.”
Woods was looking forward to testing his game under pressure over two more rounds. He’ll tee off on Saturday at the 10th hole of the South Course at 10:10 a.m. (18:10 GMT).
“It’s one thing to do it at home, it’s totally another thing to do it out here,” he said. “These guys are all going low and I haven’t done that in a long time.”