January 27, 2012

Tiger climbs into contention at Abu Dhabi Golf Club

Tiger Woods heated up his putter Friday and shot a 3-under-par 69 in the second round of the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at warm and nearly windless Abu Dhabi Golf Club in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

After using 34 putts on Thursday, he needed only 28 Friday. As a result, he has a 36-hole score of 5-under 139 and is tied for third place, two strokes behind leader Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark.

A late front-nine starter with Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy, Woods got off to a great start at the 405-yard, par-4 first hole, the shortest par-4 on the course. After striping a 3-wood down the fairway, he hit wedge from 121 yards seven feet beyond the flag and made the birdie putt.

Playing in front of a massive gallery, Woods just missed another birdie attempt from 12 feet at the par-5 second hole, where he drove into the right rough and had to lay up short of the green in two. At the 429-yard, par-4 third hole, Woods drove into the left fairway bunker, found the front-left greenside bunker with his approach and was left with a long, uphill bunker shot. He blasted 17 feet short of the cup and two-putted for his first bogey of the tournament.

Woods gave himself another good birdie opportunity at the 161-yard, par-3 fourth, but two-putted from 15 feet. At the difficult 469-yard, par-4 sixth hole, he knocked his 9-iron second shot from the fairway into the left-greenside bunker. Faced with a difficult lie in the sand, Woods blasted seven feet past the hole and poured in the par-saving putt.

Woods two-putted the par-3 seventh, burning the right edge of the cup from about 25 feet. At the 597-yard, par-5 eighth, he hit the fairway off the tee, then ripped a 3-wood into the right-front bunker. Faced with a steep shot and little green to worth with, Woods hit a soft lob from the sand that stopped seven feet below the hole and converted the putt, his first birdie of the event on a par-5.

At the 456-yard, par-4 ninth, Woods semi-skulled a 3-wood into the left rough, the ball hardly climbing more than 10 feet off the ground. The rough is thick this week, causing most players to come up short on approach shots. Woods gouged his second shot 15 yards shy of the green, then hit a nice pitch-and-run four feet past the hole and saved par to make the turn in 1-under 35.

Woods two-putted the par-5 10th for a par, then birdied the 417-yard, par-4 11th for the second consecutive day, rolling in a 24-foot putt.

He followed with another birdie at the 179-yard, par-3 12th, punching a short iron four feet right of the hole and easily converted.

After a two-putt par at 13, Woods made a nice par save at the 490-yard, par-4 14th. He drove into the left rough with a 3-wood, slashed his second shot into the front-left bunker, then splashed his third shot six feet below the cup and made the par putt.

Woods pulled within one stroke of the lead at the 181-yard, par-3 15th, where he hit a 9-iron 16 feet right of the hole and drained the putt.

But he dropped a shot at the 475-yard, par-4 16th, where he drove into the left rough. Woods muscled his second shot into the front-right bunker, blasted 12 feet short of the cup and two-putted for a bogey.

Woods closed his round with two lengthy two-putt pars at 17 and 18.

After hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation on Thursday, Woods hit 12 of 18 on Friday. He also found six of 14 fairways.

Woods will tee off on Saturday at 2:45 a.m. ET, again paired with Rory McIlroy, along with Robert Karlsson.