(Reuters) – Shaking off rust was a priority for Tiger Woods in his first PGA Tour event in 17 months and the former world number one was encouraged by his improvement over two rounds, despite missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open on Friday.
While some critics feel that Woods still needs to make technical adjustments to his swing after being sidelined by back pain and spine surgery, the 41-year-old dwelt on the positives after shooting a level-par 72 in the second round at Torrey Pines outside San Diego.
“I hit it much better today,” Woods told reporters after posting a four-over total of 148 to miss the cut by four strokes. “I made a couple of little tweaks and changes in my swing and my set-up which was good.
“Good communication between (caddie) Joey (LaCava) and I out there while playing, what he’s seeing and what I’m feeling. It was good. He’s rusty as well. I’m rusty.
“I felt like I made some nice strides, just wish I could be playing at the weekend because I really love this golf course.”
Woods has fond memories of Torrey Pines, where he has won the PGA Tour event a record seven times and also the 2008 U.S. Open at the same venue for the last of his 14 major titles.
However, he faced an uphill task in his bid to make the cut after he had struggled to a four-over 76 in the opening round with a rusty and often erratic display.
All too often, Woods leaked shots out to the right in that first round on the more difficult South Course, paying a steep price for persisting with attempts to draw the ball from right to left.
“He loves to go for that draw and it just wasn’t coming back,” said six-times major winner Nick Faldo, an analyst for Golf Channel. “Yet he hit a couple of great shots in that first round… when he was trying to play a low fade.
“I think that does so many good things to his body, it gets him in the right place, gets him through impact. Otherwise he aims so far left and starts the ball so far right, he is fighting things.”
For Woods, the cold, wet conditions at Torrey Pines were also a big concern.
“It’s a long process in the mornings, trying to get ready, trying to get warmed up,” he said. “The tall order then is just to stay warm and stay loose… and I did.
“Playing tournament golf is a little bit different from playing with your buddies back home in a cart. I need to get more rounds under my belt.”
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in St Augustine, Florida; Editing by John O’Brien)