March 07, 2014

Tiger battles windy conditions in Round 2 at Doral

Tiger Woods overcame fierce winds and an aching back Friday to play his way back into contention in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral in Miami. Woods played 26 holes — finishing the eight left over from Thursday’s storm-delayed first round — and shot a 4-over-par 76. But he bounced back with a 73 in the second round on a day when only three players in the 68-player field broke par, the low score a 70.

Wind blew 15-to-20 miles per hour most of the day, with gusts of up to 30 mph. Nearly 100 balls found water at the newly-renovated and toughened up Blue Monster course, with Tiger contributing three in the second round.

“It was tough,” said Woods, who has a 36-hole score of 5-over 149 and is tied for 25th, six strokes off the lead shared by three players. “Just had to grind it out.”

Afterward, Tiger admitted his back was sore after the long day. He withdrew with lower back spasms last Sunday during the final round of The Honda Classic and did not play a practice round this week.

“It’s a little sore,” he said. “It will be nice to get some treatment tonight and be ready for tomorrow.”

While the breezy conditions made it tough to hold shots on the greens, Woods wasn’t without a highlight. On the par-3 fourth hole of the second round, he sunk a 92-foot birdie putt.

“Just tried to get the ball close,” Tiger said. “I can’t remember the last time I made a putt from that far.”

When Woods returned to the course on the back nine early Friday, he played the last eight holes in 2-over to finish with a 3-over 39. Tiger made three consecutive birdies at the par-3 15th, par-4 16th and par-4 17th holes, but bogeyed the par-4 11th, par-3 13th and par-4 18th, and double-bogeyed the par-4 14th.

Although the 76 was Tiger’s highest-ever score at Doral, where he has won four times, the difficult conditions and course changes made it a challenge for everyone. Woods wound up hitting only 5 of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens and used 30 putts.

After a 45-minute break, Tiger began his second round with Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson on the back nine and got off to a great start with a seven-foot birdie putt at the par-5 10th and a nine-foot birdie putt at the par-4 11th. But he gave them back with bogeys at the par-3 13th and par-3 15th holes, then bogeyed the par-4 17th and par-4 18th holes to make the turn in 2-over 38.

On his second side, Woods bogeyed the par-4 third, birdied the par-3 fourth and par-4 fifth. He closed with four straight pars to shoot a 1-under 35.

Tiger hit 10 of 14 fairways and 9 of 18 greens, and needed only 26 putts.

“You just couldn’t get the ball close,” Woods said of the course setup. “From that standout, it was right on the teetering point. I think some guys will probably be pretty upset about some of the pins.”

Tiger begins third round play Saturday at 11:35 a.m. ET with Stenson.