ARDMORE, Pa. — Tiger Woods has won a U.S. Open on a broken leg. Now he’s trying to win one with a wounded arm.
For the second day in a row, Woods grimaced in pain after several shots, his left arm clearly bothering him at times. Still, he pieced together a nice 70 for a 3-over-par 143 and said he likes his chances of winning his first major championship in five years.
Woods felt some pain in an arm he said he injured while hitting a shot when winning The Players in early May. That is curious because, based on his lack of reacting, it didn’t seem to bother him there or when he tied for 65th at the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago.
The Open at Merion has been something else from the start. He grimaced hitting a shot out of rough on his first hole Thursday. In Friday’s second round, among other times, he winced after laying up from deep rough en route to a tap-in birdie on the par-5 second. After teeing off with an iron on the short par-4 eighth, he shook his left arm while in obvious discomfort. His approach from the rough on No. 8 also was bothersome, for he wrapped his left arm around his back.
With all that going on, people not only watched his shots but also his facial expressions.
“It is what it is,” Woods said regarding the arm after each of the first two rounds.
The problem, according to a Woods insider, lies in the elbow. One could surmise it’s tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow and probably not gardener’s elbow. But since Woods hasn’t said, some could be left wondering whether the soreness involves that joint or the left wrist, left forearm, left bicep, left triceps, left shoulder, left ear lobe, left nostril or left temple.
Oh, we forgot left cheek.
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Over the years, Woods has steadfastly refused to use injury as an excuse. It’s as if he doesn’t want a physical ailment to get in the way of his task, namely hitting shots at targets well enough to facilitate the hoisting of yet another trophy. He has continually plowed through pain, refusing to let an excuse sabotage his focus. The classic case, of course, came when he won the 2008 Open at Torrey Pines on a broken leg that soon after was surgically repaired.
On the other hand, Woods has been part amusing and annoying with his secrecy regarding injuries. Rather than be forthcoming, he makes a point to not attach energy to the topic.
And so it went again Friday. Asked when he first hurt the elbow, he said, “A few weeks ago.” Asked if it felt better after the second round than the first, he said, “Well, it is what it is.” Asked again where he hurt it, he said, “Playing golf at The Players.” Asked where at The Players, he said, “One of the rounds.”
When it came to the arm, he kept everyone at arm’s length. Elaboration was nowhere to be heard. He was evasive as the Nixon White House. You’d have thought he was guarding a state secret. If I’m not mistaken, he gave longer answers when going through scandal and rehabilitation in 2010.
Nor did his aides allow anything. Asked what the medical diagnosis of the arm was, agent Mark Steinberg said, “I don’t know.” Glenn Greenspan, the public relations man, said Woods didn’t tell him much about the injury. Sean Foley, the coach, told a reporter that he didn’t know if Woods hurt the arm last month but that he may have.
Whatever, the scenario is reminiscent of the Open at Torrey Pines, though apparently not nearly as severe. Like then, Woods is playing well and is in contention while overcoming pain.
His putting in a first-round 73 was more reflective of his work on the greens at Memorial than in his four victories of 2013. He took 32 putts and three-putted twice in that round, which began late Thursday afternoon and ended early Friday morning because of two first-day weather delays.
In making three birdies and three bogeys in the second round, he hit one fewer green in regulation but took two fewer putts. He kept the round going by making par-saving putts of 15 and 12 feet at Nos. 5 and 8, respectively. The latter came a few minutes after a spectator, apparently well served, yelled out, “I’ve got a dime on you, Tiger.”
For the uninitiated, that is gambling talk for a thousand dollars. Not that Woods cared a whit about that. What mattered to him was improved performance on a soft but hard Merion course featuring tucked pins.
“I really played well,” he said.
He birdied the short 13th from 4 feet and the long fourth from a dozen feet. The latter put him at 2 over, but he gave a shot back after he stubbed a chip from deep rough on the short side at No. 8. Chipping from 18 feet from the pin, he moved his ball only three feet, an odd squirt to the right.
“It’s one of those shots where you’re either going to flub it or you’re going to hit it 20 feet past,” Woods said.
The tough pin placements left Woods thinking the U.S. Golf Association again was “trying to protect par.” In a Wednesday news conference, officials Mike Davis and Tom O’Toole both said this Open was not about a winning score around even par.
Asked if bought that, Woods drew laughter when smiling and saying, “No.”
That question came right after this one: Do you like your chances?
“Yes,” Woods said.
On a long day, he was armed with many short answers.