May 11, 2012

Mid-round birdie run lifts Tiger to 2-under par

Tiger Woods reeled off four consecutive birdies midway through his second round Friday and went on to shoot a 4-under-par 68 at THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

It was a nice turnaround for Woods, who opened with a 74 on Thursday. Instead of sweating out the even-par cutline, he now has a 36-hole score of 2-under 142 and is only six shots off the lead shared by Kevin Na, Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson.

A late starter with Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan, Woods collected six birdies and two bogeys en route to one of the afternoon’s best scores. He hit 78 percent of the greens and 71 percent of the fairways in regulation, and used 28 putts for the second straight day.

“I still have a good chance,” Woods said.

Woods began his second round with three consecutive pars, missing a 15-foot birdie attempt at the par-3 third hole. He broke through with a birdie at the par-4 fourth, where he flagged a wedge from 110 yards to six feet and made the putt.

A poor drive into the right rough led to a bogey at the par-5 fifth, where Tiger missed a 15-foot putt. After pars at Nos. 6 and 7, he jump-started his round at the 237-yard, par-3 eighth by holing an eight-foot birdie putt.

At the par-5 ninth, Woods hit his second shot from 231 yards into the front-left bunker, then blasted out to six feet and drained the birdie putt to make the turn in 2-under 34.

Tiger made it three in a row at the par-4 10th, where he hit his approach shot from 139 yards to within five feet of the cup and converted the birdie putt. He also birdied the par-5 11th, knocking his second shot from 220 yards just left of the green and chipping to three feet.

Woods nearly added his fifth straight birdie at the par-4 12th but missed from 13 feet. Following a long two-putt par at the par-3 13th, he bogeyed the par-4 14th, where he drove into the rough, hit his second shot long and couldn’t convert an 11-foot putt.

But he steadied down the stretch. After a two-putt par from 28 feet at the par-4 15th, Tiger birdied the par-5 16th. He came up just short of the green in two, nearly holed his chip shot, then drilled the seven-foot birdie putt.

Woods hit a brave tee shot at the 142-yard, par-3 17th hole, where the green is surrounded by water. He flirted with the back-left pin placement; the ball stopped on the left fringe, 16 feet from the hole. Tiger gave his birdie putt a bold try, the ball rolling nearly four feet past the cup, but converted for par.

The 442-yard, par-4 18th hole has given Woods and many players problems through the years, with Woods playing it a combined 15-over par in his career. This time, he flushed a 5-wood down the center of the fairway, then hit a nice approach from 175 yards that spun left as planned, 10 feet behind the flag. Faced with a tough left-to-right downhill putt, Tiger just missed to the right and settled for a par.

“I was trying to shoot my number today,” he said. “I figured that would have been a good way to get into the weekend.”

After struggling on the par 5s in his last two events, Woods birdied three of four on Friday. That helped him break 70 at the Stadium Course for the first time in nine rounds and moved him from a tie for 100th to a tie for 30th.

“It’s one of those things where you have to hit the ball well at the right time,” said Woods. “You can’t fake it around this place.”

Woods tees off Saturday at 11:25 a.m. ET with Keegan Bradley.