“I’m starting to come back, and it’s going to take a little time,” Woods said after bowing out of his second PGA Tour event since April, when he had his latest surgery. “I am progressing. I’m starting to get a feel for tournament golf again.”
Over 36 holes here, Woods registered just 15 pars; a pile of 12 bogeys (plus a double) buried him deep on the leaderboard.
“He’s very close,” McIlroy said. “He’s still trying to figure things out with his equipment.”
After tinkering with his driver over the three weeks since he rejoined the tour, Woods was especially errant off the tee. Putting, which provided a lifeline in his one-over first round, deserted him Friday, with the stroke count on greens rising to 32 from 25.
“I think everyone has to be patient with him, especially him being patient with it and just give himself time,” McIlroy said. “It’s not too far away.”
Still, the ungraceful exit was disconcerting to Woods. At the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines last month, he made his first cut since August 2015, finishing tied for 23rd after playing each round at par or better.
Riviera was the backdrop for Woods’s initiation onto the tour, and he expresses devotion to the layout despite never having mastered it. He was introduced to spectators ringing the first tee as the “tournament host,” with his company operating the event and his foundation, geared toward educating low-income youth, serving as its beneficiary.
His mother, Kultida Woods, who helped rear him about an hour’s drive from Riviera, blended into the ample gallery that strode every step with him.
“For her only child to go through the struggles was a little rough on her,” Woods said, “so she’s very proud of me getting back out there.”
Woods said after Friday’s round that his knees were “a bit sore, but that’s just all age.” He did not mention trouble with his back, and he committed to playing in the Honda Classic this week.
Missing the cut at Riviera will offer him extra time to recover from soreness and to prepare for the Honda Classic, which is near his current residence in South Florida. It will be the first time Woods has played tournaments in consecutive weeks since 2015.
He could have taken more rest back home and worked on his game without the stress of a formal event. But he said he craved time in a competitive environment, which he sees as vital to elevating his game.
“It’s so different playing tournament golf versus playing at home” with nothing at stake, he said. “I’ve just got to play more tournaments.”