TIGER WOODS has shrugged off criticism after his rocky start to 2014. Insisting his sights are on the Masters, Woods said: "Once the Florida Swing starts, we're all just about building toward that one week in April. Don't finish dead last and if you win, great."
A shocking Saturday 79 saw Woods miss the secondary cut at Torrey Pines, where he's won eight times. He then tied 41st in Dubai, where he'd won twice and never finished worse than 20th.
Yet Woods retorted: "I took a lot of time off this winter to get ready for the season because it's going to be a long grind. It took three rounds in San Diego and three rounds in Dubai before finally it clicked in and then I'd a wonderful feel for it.
"It's not the way I'm used to starting," Woods admitted. "But I didn't have the practice time I'm used to.
"I knew eventually it'd kick in. Unfortunately it took six rounds before it did."
Woods said there's "no need" to be frustrated. "I just have to keep building day by day. There were a couple of days where I just didn't have it but I turned it around."
Woods skips next week's WGC-Accenture Match Play and resumes the following week at the Honda Classic near his Florida home. He then plays the WGC-Cadillac at Doral, then Arnie Palmer's Invitational at Bay Hill.
Darren Clarke withdrew from the Northern Trust Open after his first-round 78 at Riviera with a recurrence of the chest muscle injury which sidelined him for three weeks.
The Ulsterman's Korean playing companion Sang-Moon Bae didn't miss him much yesterday, shooting a 66 to set the early clubhouse mark on nine-under. Yet Dustin Johnson, overnight leader after Thursday's five-under 66, was closing in.
Padraig Harrington needed to shoot at least four-under to make the cut after his opening 75.
Michael Hoey and Damien McGrane were the only Irish to make the cut at the Africa Ocean, though David Higgins brought play to a close with 23 still on the course. Higgins was tied 68th overnight on four-under, one outside the mark. But with barely a puff of wind expected, it didn't look good for the Waterville native.
Hoey (68) and McGrane (69) shared 36th on six-under, 10 behind John Hahn, who posted a 10-under 61. Hahn (25), shot six birdies and an eagle on his final nine.
Ricardo Santos, two back after a 66, and Ollie Fisher, third on 13-under following a splendid 63, both were bogey-free through 36 holes. Gareth Maybin (68) and Kevin Phelan (70) missed the cut by two on three-under.