PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — For the second straight week, Tiger Woods found himself playing the final nine of a golf course struggling to make the cut instead of surging into contention.
Woods was unable to get much going Friday at TPC Sawgrass, making two birdies and a single bogey to shoot 1-under-par 71 and then needing help to advance to the weekend.
Hours later, bogeys on the 18th hole by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas — who were playing in the same group — dropped the cut number from 142 to 141, meaning Woods will have an early-morning tee time Saturday.
Because 80 players made the cut, there will be a secondary cut Saturday with the top 70 ties and players advancing to the final round. Anyone who does not qualify for Sunday will receive prize money for their position.
Mickelson flamed out Thursday with an opening-round 79, and Fowler was on his way to a weekend tee time before he lost a ball in a tree on his 15th hole for a double-bogey.
Woods, 42, is competing in the Players for the first time since 2015 and has never missed the cut in 16 previous appearances, although he withdrew twice. He has two victories and six finishes outside the top 20.
The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass has always been vexing to Woods, especially when his game is off, and that has been the case so far this year as well as last week at the Wells Fargo Championship, where he tied for 55th.
Last week, it was poor putting. On Thursday, it was poor driving. On Friday, it was poor iron play, especially his short wedges. In eight tournaments this year, Woods has struggled to put it all together.
“That’s golf, unfortunately,” said Woods, who completed 36 holes at 143, 1 under par. “If we were able to put all of our facets of the game together, I think there would be a lot more tournament winners out here.
“This is just part of the job. We have to figure out a way to put it together, and I have not done that consistently this year so far.”
For example, Woods never had more than a 6-iron to a par-4 on Friday but ranked 108th in the field in strokes gained, approach to the green. His average distance from the pin was nearly 39 feet.
On at least nine holes, Woods had some form of a wedge — pitching, gap or sand — and was rarely able to hit it close, as his two birdies attest.
“I didn’t hit the ball close enough,” he said. “I didn’t get off to the start I wanted to. I had sand wedge on 10 [his first hole], a reachable par-5 at 11, sand wedge again at 12, and I played those even par. That’s not the start I wanted to have and unfortunately kind of went the rest of the day the same way.”
Mickelson followed his 79 with a 73 and finished at 152, 8 over par. The 47-year-old, who won the Players in 2007, has missed the cut five of the past six years.
“I sometimes can’t believe I won here,” Mickelson said.
Fowler was in position to make the cut until his ball found the tree at the sixth, leading to a double-bogey. He then hit his tee shot in the water at the seventh for another double, leading to a score of 71 and a total of 145.
For Woods, an early Saturday tee time means another opportunity to continue working on his game in competition. He has now played 28 rounds this year in his comeback from spinal fusion surgery.
“I hopefully give myself more looks,” he said. “I feel like I’m putting well. I’m just never inside that range which I should be with the irons I’m having.”