LOS ANGELES — Tiger Woods had some explaining to do Friday, about a putter so cold he was on the verge of missing the cut, and about a chauvinistic joke he played on Justin Thomas in the Genesis Invitational.
Returning to elite competition for the first time in seven months, Woods created quite a buzz in the opening round for all the wrong reasons.
It started when he ripped off a 323-yard drive, about 10 yards longer than the 29-year-old Thomas. Woods walked off the tee and discreetly put something in Thomas’ hand, which Thomas threw to the ground when he realized what it was – a tampon, to remind Thomas that Woods was hitting it further. Woods laughed and put his arm around Thomas.
Social media came alive when the moment was posted. On Friday, a fan yelled, “Tampon!” at Woods after he made a rare putt.
Woods apologized after his bogey-bogey finish for a 74 in the second round, which put him above the projected cut.
“It was supposed to be fun and games, and obviously it didn’t turn out that way,” Woods said. “If I offended anyone in any way, shape or form, I’m sorry. It wasn’t meant to be. We were just joking around the whole time, and virally, I don’t think it came across that way.”
Outside of cursing after bad shots, Woods rarely brings this kind of attention to himself inside the ropes.
The golf wasn’t much better either.
He missed birdie chances early and pars late, and the finish was a polar opposite from his opening round when he finished with three straight birdies for 69.
Woods came within inches of an ace on the par-3 14th, his fifth hole of the round, but he missed a 5-foot birdie chance two holes later.
“I didn’t putt well today,” Woods said. “I blocked a lot of putts early and this is probably the highest score I could have shot today. Probably should have shot five or six better than this easily. Just didn’t make the putts early and middle of the round when I had those opportunities. And they weren’t very hard putts.”
He was still 2 under for the tournament, even for his round, when he fell short of the target on the par-3 sixth hole, the famous green with a bunker in the middle. The ball rolled down the edge to the front of the green and the pin was cut in the upper left.
Arms crossed and a lob wedge in his hands, he studied several options. He could have pitched it to the back of the green and up the hill and let it run back towards the hole.
“If I chipped it up top, there’s a chance it might actually come back to the front of the green,” Woods said, adding that’s what happened when he tried it Wednesday during the pro-am.
He switched to the putter to rip up the hill, left of the pin to leave himself about 10 feet away for a chance at par. One problem.
“The ridge caught it more than I thought it would,” he said.
It picked up speed from the ball and it swung to the right, down the edge of the bunker and into the sand. He blasted out to 5 feet and made a quick putt with enough break that he had to start it out of the cup.
It was the start of a bad ending. On the eighth, his tee shot found a bunker and he caught it heavily, hitting his third over the green and doing well to putt from the first cut of turf to tap-in range for bogey.
On his last hole on No. 9, he came up short and plugged into the bunker. All he could do with a front pin was blasted out through the green and his par putt caught the lip. Another bogey left him at 1-over 143, off the top 65 when he signed his card, and 10 shots behind the early lead posted by Keith Mitchell.
“I had two bad calls in the wind on 6 and 9 and ended up costing me two shots there,” Woods said.
He had to wait until the second round was over to see if it was enough to make it to the weekend in the tournament he is organizing.