DUBLIN, Ohio: As he walked to the fourth hole, his 13th, Tiger Woods let out a little sigh of exasperation.
When things are going well for the five-time Memorial Tournament champion, there’s no way that sigh is audible. Usually as the world’s No. 1 golfer leaves the green at Muirfield Village Golf Club and strides to the next tee, he is exhorted by fans, who shower him with compliments and cheers.
Friday was not that kind of day for Woods. His back nine was eerily quiet as he and playing partners Fred Couples and Keegan Bradley flirted with the 36-hole cut line.
Woods will escape that fate, which would have been unprecedented here. But as he fought gusting winds, his second-round 74 left him at 1-over 145, 10 strokes behind leader Bill Haas.
It was only Woods’ ninth time over par in 53 rounds at Muirfield Village. He’s gone higher than 74 only twice. One came during his first appearance in 1997, the other was 10 years ago.
The last time Woods shot a 74, on the second day of the 2009 event, he went on to win. But to show his consistency at Muirfield Village, in seven of the previous 13 years Woods played in the Memorial, he shot par or better in all four rounds.
That’s not to say he won’t make a run on the weekend — although it might not be enough to win — or that his game has suddenly deserted him two weeks before the U.S. Open. That’s far from the case. He has hit 24-of-28 fairways, 13-of-14 on Friday.
“I’m not too disappointed with it,” he said of his ball-striking. “On a golf course like this, with the wind gusts like this, it’s tough.”
But there were some ugly moments, like a double-bogey 7 at the par-5 15th hole, his sixth, where he missed the green with his third shot and three-putted from 4˝ feet. He said a wind gust got him. That’s when panic set in for Tiger-watchers, at least when it came to missing the cut.
At No. 9 (his 18th), he said the wind wreaked havoc with his third shot as it popped high and landed short of the green, leading to a bogey.
His putting also let him down as he needed 30 for the second consecutive day. He turned away in disgust when he missed a 16-foot birdie attempt at No. 6, the ball sliding two feet past.
“I had a hard time with the speed,” Woods said. “They don’t look that fast, but they’re putting fast. It was kind of a mental thing I was struggling with out there. You try to stay below the hole as best you can, but sometimes you have to get the ball on the green.”
All the fun of Thursday, when Couples, 53, reveled in the fact that he shot 2 under and beat Woods by a stroke, turned into an every-man-for-himself struggle. The gallery, which included Ellen Tressel, wife of the former Ohio State football coach, didn’t get the rowdy start to the day it expected.
Those who took off work expecting to see fireworks from the tournament’s best pairing were forced to change their allegiance to Haas.
Woods finished before two weather delays and an overnight suspension struck. The rain, including some deluges, should dramatically change the speed of the greens. Scattered thunderstorms are forecast for the rest of the weekend. Target golf might improve Woods’ score, but also those of the rest of the field, making it tougher for him to catch up.
Woods was humbled for the day, but he didn’t seem ready to write off the weekend. Asked if he felt he was out of it, Woods said no, but didn’t elaborate, instead wondering whether tournament officials would alter weekend tee times because of the weather.
The leaderboard added some star power Friday, with 2012 Masters Tournament champion Bubba Watson shooting himself into contention, joining 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel, the first-round leader. When second-round play was called for the day at 7:07 p.m. with 42 players still on the course, Matt Kuchar, Schwartzel, Watson and Kyle Stanley were 3 shots behind Haas, although only Kuchar had finished.
As out of character as Woods’ second-round performance was, it is only a blip on the radar when it comes to the big picture. He has won four out of seven events this year. Four out of eight sounds just as intimidating, especially with three majors remaining.
His gallery might have gone away disappointed, searching for a more entertaining venue for happy hour. But Woods’ problems seem minor. His occasional sighs of exasperation might soon be drowned out by cheers.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the her blog at https://ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.