Showing he's human, Woods barely cut above He moves on despite 2nd-round 75; Hoch leads Memorial by 2


DUBLIN, Ohio -- There was the ricochet chip off the bank and into the pond in front of the 11th green. There was the near-whiff from the rough in front of the 16th green. There was the badly hooked drive on the 18th hole into a creek left of the fairway.

There was the 6-over-42 on the back nine after a 3-under 33 on the front.

There was the 3-over 147 posted next to his name on the scoreboards at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

And there was his name under barely making the cut yesterday " after the second round at the Memorial Tournament.

They all belonged to Tiger Woods.

Five days after showing a side few had seen since he turned pro last summer by blowing a chance at victory with two double bogeys over the final 11 holes in the Byron Nelson Classic, the 21-year-old phenom demonstrated he was capable of being even more than human.

He could hack it around with the best of us.

For golf fans, it was probably painful to watch but great to see that Woods is just another guy who puts his pants on one leg, or in his case, one swoosh, at a time. It was nice of a player reigning PGA Player of the Year Tom Lehman referred to as "Superman" to lend the weekend's spotlight to those Lehman kiddingly called "loyal serfs trying to make it out here."

To the unappreciated and unapproachable Scott Hoch, who leads the tournament at 12-under par. To the unfulfilled Tommy Tolles, at 10-under and still looking for his first PGA Tour victory after several near-misses. To the unsung Vijay Singh, three shots back.

Only a missed 10-foot putt by Fuzzy Zoeller kept Woods in the tournament. (How coincidental is that, considering their recent tap dance after Zoeller's racially insensitive remarks about the reigning Masters champion?)

Win or lose, make the leader board or barely make the cut, Woods is still the biggest story. But in truth, it shouldn't come as a surprise.

It didn't to Woods.

"My swing is just really not there," Woods said shortly after he finished his worst round of the year and his second-worst since joining the tour. "People have a hard time understanding it, but all you have to do is look at my scores. I can't keep it going for more than nine holes."

Woods started to lose it shortly after returning from a month's layoff following his victory at the Masters. After a pair of 64s to open the Byron Nelson Classic, Woods began spraying shots, most of them to the left. He then lost the distance control on his wedges.

Though he hung on to win the Nelson by two shots and stayed in contention at the Colonial, that stretch last Sunday was only a hint of what was to come here. He was 3-over for the first 15 holes Thursday before getting it back with an eagle and a birdie. He was 3-under at the turn yesterday.

"The momentum was there," Woods said. "Unfortunately, the momentum went the other way. I was on the wrong side of the 'mo' and it was just downhill from there."

Also on the wrong side of the hole. Those downhill putts left Woods with an uphill struggle. First it was to make the cut, something he has done in all 18 tournaments as a pro and a stretch of 19 straight in PGA Tour events dating to the 1995 Masters.

Now it's time to regroup for this year's Open, where Woods will try to become the first player since Jack Nicklaus in 1972 to win the first two legs of golf's Grand Slam. Asked what he would do if he missed the cut, Woods said, "Go home and get ready [for the Open]."

There are some who think that Tigermania has worn down its main attraction, that the travel and off-course business opportunities have tired Woods out, if not physically, then mentally from the recent endorsement deals he signed with American Express and Rolex.

"I don't know if he stumbles. He's getting a little tired, maybe," Tolles said. "Three weeks of fame and fortune, it wears on you after a while. I think everyone is starting to forget that he's only 21."

Woods doesn't buy into the theory that the attention is wearing him down, if not out.

"It has nothing to do with it," Woods said. "Am I tired? Yes. This golf course beat me up today."

Pub Date: 5/31/97

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