HOYLAKE England (Reuters) - Tiger Woods endured an ignominious afternoon at the British Open on Friday but the fierce pride of a wounded champion made sure he will at least be still in there fighting at the weekend.
Shortly before leader and British favorite Rory McIlroy made a mockery of the par-four 17th with a monster drive on the way to a nailed-on birdie, Woods had hacked his way to an ugly seven at the very same hole.
As he trudged down the 18th fairway needing a birdie to avoid missing the cut for only the second time in the 18 British Opens he has contested, the cheers that greeted the 14-times major champion felt more out of sympathy than admiration.
Eyes fixed ahead, Woods barely acknowledged the words of encouragement offered by some members of the large galleries.
With his back to the wall, however, Woods saved his best moment of the day until last, getting up and down in two from behind a deep green-side sand trap to pocket his four.
He showed little emotion, other than relief - a feeling probably shared by TV executives and Open organizers alike.
Typically, Woods refused to accept that he would simply be making up the numbers at the weekend, when he will start on two-over par, 14 shots adrift of front-runner McIlroy.
Despite looking well below his magnificent best, understandable given he had back surgery in March and had played just two rounds since in the build-up to the Open, the 38-year-old preferred to look up rather than down.
“Well, it gives me a chance,” Woods, who last won the Open in 2006 when it was also at Hoylake, told a cluster of reporters near the 18th green.
”I‘m pretty far back. Luckily I’ve got two rounds to go. And hopefully I can do something like Paul (Lawrie) did in ‘99.
“He made up, I think, 10 in one day. Hopefully I can play well on the weekend and at least give myself a shot at going to the back nine on Sunday.”
Only a fool would discount Woods entirely but, apart from a burst of birdies on Thursday when he shot an encouraging 69, there has been little of the old magic on display.
With the wind blowing harder than on Thursday, Woods dispensed with his plan of taking irons off the tee and decided to attack with his driver.
It backfired dismally though as time and again he found himself in the long rough flanking the verdant fairways.
“I didn’t hit the driver very good today. And I was trying to be a bit more aggressive,” said Woods, who ran up a double bogey at the first after cross hooking his tee shot left.
“I figured today would be a chance to go out there and be aggressive and do that, take some of these bunkers out of play and just didn’t drive it well.”
After dropping three shots in his opening two holes to undo the good work of Thursday, he registered 14 consecutive pars before the wheels came off at the 17th.
“I got off to a terrible start again,” said Woods, who has not added to his major haul since 2008.
“I had some opportunities to make a few birdies along the way to get back to even par for the day, and I just never did. I just never made anything. I had myself in good positions to make birdies and I just didn’t do it.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar