It's a short return for Tiger Woods at Congressional

He misses cut by four shots in his first tournament since back surgery

BETHESDA, Md. — Tiger Woods never felt so good after playing so badly.

Taking two shots to escape a plugged lie in a bunker put him a hole. Four straight bogeys on the back nine Friday in the Quicken Loans National buried his chances of making it to the weekend. Over two rounds at Congressional, he missed 16 greens and managed to save par only three times.

Woods was back — just not for very long.

Playing for the first time in more than three months because of back surgery, he had a 4-over 75 on Friday and missed the cut by four shots. It was only the 10th time in his PGA Tour career that Woods missed a 36-hole cut, and the first time he didn't sound overly distressed.

"I hate to say it, but I'm really encouraged by what happened this week," Woods said. "I missed the cut by four shots — that's a lot. But the fact that what I was able to do physically, and the speed I had and the distance that I was hitting the golf ball again, I had not done that in a very long time. Felt great today. Then, as I said, I made so many little mistakes ... all the little things that I know I can fix. But as I said, that's very encouraging."

And it wasn't all that surprising.

Woods had played only four tournaments this year while coping with an increasingly sore back, which led him to have surgery March 31 and miss the first two majors. He had hoped to return for the British Open next month. Instead, he felt strong enough to play the Quicken Loans National, primarily because it benefits his foundation and Woods figured he needed to get in a little competition before going to Royal Liverpool.

Even it if was only two rounds.

"I came back four weeks earlier than we thought I could," Woods said. "I had no setbacks. I got my feel for playing tournament golf. I made a ton of simple, little mistakes — misjudging things and missing the ball on the wrong sides and just didn't get up-and-down on little, simple shots. Those are the little things I can correct."

Marc Leishman of Australia turned potential bogey into unlikely birdie when he holed out from 127 yards on the par-5 ninth hole on his way to a 5-under 66 and a four-way share of the lead going into the weekend.

Oliver Goss, another Aussie who is making his second pro start, had a bogey-free 66 and joined Leishman at 6-under 136 along with Ricky Barnes (69) and Patrick Reed (68), who already has won twice this year.

Woods was 13 shots behind at 7-over 148.

It wasn't the largest 36-hole gap from the leaders in the previous nine times he missed the cut on the PGA Tour.

It just looked that way.

Woods took two shots to get out of a plugged lie in a bunker on the fifth hole and made double bogey. He three-putted for par on the next hole and never looked more sloppy than on the short par-4 eighth. He was in perfect position after hitting a big drive, 61 yards from the hole at the right angle. His pitch was too strong and left of the flag, leaving him a downhill chip from the collar. He hit that 7 feet by and missed the par putt.

Even so, the damage came after consecutive bogeys around the turn. His tee shot went into a hazard on No. 11, forcing him to punch out. He hit a wild hook off the tee on the 12th, and his second shot was headed for a bunker until it was suspended in the grass on the lip of the sand. He hit a poor chip from below the green on the 13th. And from the 14th fairway, he missed the green and hit another poor chip.

Four bogeys, no time to recover.

"If it were anybody else, I would say that I would expect kind of a struggle. But you just never know with Tiger," Jordan Spieth said after his own brilliant display of a short game that allowed him to make the cut. "He just got a couple rounds under his belt. So he's going to be a severe threat at the British — probably a favorite — and after playing these couple rounds, I think he'll take something from it.

"He's not that far off from being right back to where he was."

Woods took encouragement from not feeling any pain in his back, and from swinging as hard as he wanted with his driver. That's what concerned him about playing this week. Turns out it was the two shortest clubs in his bag — the wedge and putter — that did him in.

Ten players were separated by only two shots going into the weekend, and there was only a nine-shot differential from first to last place. Former U.S. Open champion Justin Rose had 65 to get within three shots of the lead.

NW Arkansas Championship

At Rogers, Ark., Michelle Wie shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 in her first round since winning the U.S. Women's Open last weekend at Pinehurst, leaving her a stroke behind leader Alena Sharp in the NW Arkansas Championship.

Wie played the back nine in 4-under 31 at Pinnacle Country Club.

Sharp, the Canadian ranked 234th in the world, had only 27 putts in her opening 65.

Mexico's Alejandra Llaneza matched Wie with a bogey-free 66.

Top-ranked Stacy Lewis, who played at the nearby University of Arkansas, was 2 over after four holes before recovering to finish with a 70.

Ten players, including major champions So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng, shot 67.

Senior Players Championship

At Pittsburgh, Bernhard Langer overpowered vulnerable Fox Chapel for the second straight day, shooting a 6-under 64 to take the lead in the Senior Players Championship.

The 56-year-old Langer, a two-time winner this season on the Champions Tour, was at 11-under 129 after 36 holes as he searches for his first victory at the Senior Players after five top-10 finishes.

Doug Garwood, tied for the first-round lead, and Bill Glasson were two strokes back. Garwood birdied two of the last three holes, and Glasson had a 64.

Joe Durant, also tied for the first-round lead, had a 68 to join Michael Allen (64), John Riegger (64) and Mark McNulty (66) at 8 under. Defending champion Kenny Perry moved into contention at 7 under with a 63, the best round of the week.

BMW International Open

At Cologne, Germany, local favorite Martin Kaymer missed the cut in the BMW International Open in his first event since winning the U.S. Open, while England's Danny Willett, Spain's Pablo Larrazabal and Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Argentina's Emiliano Grillo share the second-round lead.

Kaymer followed his opening 71 with a 73 to finish at even-par 144 at Gut Larchenhof. Kaymer is from Dusseldorf, about 20 miles from Jack Nicklaus-designed Gut Larchenhof. He's the lone German champion in tournament history, winning in 2008 at Munich Eichenried.

Willett, the 2012 winner at Gut Laerchenhof, had a 68 to match Larrazabal (63), Rafa Cabrera-Bello (68) amnd Grillo (66) at 12 under. John Daly was tied for 29th at 7 under after a 67.


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