Tiger Woods sprayed the ball all over southern California but closed with a clutch birdie to make his cut on PGA Tour for 888 days in the Farmers Insurance Open.
As Seamus Power, Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry missed the cut at Torrey Pines, the former world No 1 found just three fairways on the North Course and was three shots outside the one-under cut mark with nine holes to play before digging deep into his bag of tricks with a three-under-par back nine.
He came to life from the moment he drained a 40 footer for the first of four back-nine birdies at the first (his 10th), fist-pumping like the Woods of old before picking up further birdies at the fifth and seventh.
A heavy-handed chip led to a bogey at the par-three eighth but even after slicing his tee shot well right at the 556-yard ninth, he found the green and two-putted from at least 70 feet for a birdie and a one-under 71.
“It was a grind,” Woods confessed after a round that showed he's far from finished but simply rusty and lacking tournament practice.
“I fought hard, and I was able to post a score. Typical. Just me going out there fighting for whatever I can get. It felt good.”
Whether or not he can back to close to his wonderful best remains to be seen but it's clear that Woods still has plenty to offer, providing he remains healthy.
The opposition showed no mercy and Ryan Palmer shot 67 on the North to lead by a shot on 11-under-par from defending champion Jon Rahm, who posted a bogey-free 66 at the same course as he chases a win that would see him replace Dustin Johnson as world No 1.
“I had the putter really hot on the first nine holes but my short game kept me alive today,” Rahm said. “If I don’t make those saves it could have been one or two under, or maybe even par.”
For a time it looked as though Séamus Power would be the only Irishman to make the cut. But his hopes of playing with Woods over the weekend ended with a closing bogey.
He was three-over after six holes but while he birdied the long ninth and parred his way to the 17th on the North Course, he bogeyed the last and shot a three-over 75 to miss the cut by a shot on level par.
Harrington hit fewer fairways than Woods - two of 14 — as he shot a 72 on the South Course to finish a shot outside the mark on level par.
A double-bogey seven at the par-five 18th (his ninth) proved crucial for Dubliner, who found water with his third shot after laying up.
It was an even more disappointing day for Lowry, who was one under for the day and four-under for the tournament with eight holes to play but collapsed in alarming fashion.
The Clara man dropped seven shots in eight holes en route to a 78 to miss the cut by four shots.
After hitting his tee shot to an inch at the 16th (according to Shotlink) to move into the top 15, his problems began when he three-putted the 18th for a bogey six.
He then double-bogeyed the first after finding a bunker trouble and followed that mistake with bogeys at the second (he overshot the green), third (3-putt from 25 ft), fourth (bunkered off the tee) and seventh (fairway bunker) before missing a four-footer for birdie at the par-five ninth.
Rust was the issue for Woods and all the Irish players but there were also some outstanding performances, such as the eight under 64 by Jason Day on the North Course, which moved him up to tied sixth, three off the lead.
Luke List shot a best of the day 66 on the South Course to share third place on six-under with Day and Flores while Phil Mickelson managed a 68 to share ninth on six-under.