July 31, 2015

Tiger continues strong play at Quicken Loans National

Tiger Woods carried over his strong play Thursday to fire a 5-under-par 66 on Friday in the ninth Quicken Loans National at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. It was his best score in relation to par this year.

After carding six birdies and shooting 68 in the storm-delayed opening round, Woods recorded six more Friday against one bogey and has a 36-hole score of 8-under 134, his best two-round total in two years. At the end of his roudn, he was tied for second, one stroke off the clubhouse lead held by David Lingmerth.

“I feel like I can still compete, and I feel like I can still win,” Woods said after the round. “A year and a half ago, I won five times. That’s a pretty good number.”

A winner of the event in 2009 and 2012, Tiger was an early back nine starter with Nick Watney and Bill Haas on a windless, muggy morning. Woods, who also serves as host of the event, opened with four straight pars, just missing birdie attempts at the par-4 10th, par-4 12th and par-4 13th.

A poor drive into the left rough led to a messy bogey at the par-5 14th. Tiger muscled his second shot back into the fairway, reached the green in three with a long iron and then three-putted for the second time in the tournament, missing a five-footer.

But Woods came right back at the par-4 15th, where he pounded a drive down the fairway and almost holed out his approach shot from 152 yards, easily converting a three-foot birdie putt. Tiger two-putted the next two holes, twice running birdie attempts well past the hole but managed to convert for par both times.

At the par-4 18th, Woods flushed driver down the fairway and twirled his club afterward. He hit a nice approach shot from 160 yards to nine feet and poured in the birdie putt to make the turn with a 1-under 34. After hitting all nine greens on the back nine Thursday, Tiger hit eight on Friday.

Clearly looking comfortable with his swing, Woods hit another beautiful approach to the par-4 first hole and polished off the short birdie putt for his second in a row. He almost extended it to three with a near-miss at the par-4 second, then burned the left edge at the par-4 third, settling for a par.

At the 223-yard par-3 fourth, Tiger found the center of the green 18 feet right of the pin and nailed the birdie putt. Woods made it two in a row again with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 fifth, where he drove into the right rough but still managed to reach the green in two.

Tiger followed with two-putt pars at the sixth and seventh holes, then struck again at the par-5 eighth. After hitting his tee shot into the right rough, he went for the green in two with a fairway wood and landed in a bunker about 50 yards short of the green. Woods blasted out onto the green, then knocked in a 33-foot birdie putt.

At the par-3 ninth, Tiger came up just short of the green and putted to four feet. He cleaned up the par putt to finish the side in 4-under 32.

Woods hi 14 of 18 greens and 10 of 14 fairways in regulation Friday, while making just 28 putts. He’ll tee off Saturday at 1:20 p.m. ET, with playing partner Charles Howell III.

“I’m in a good spot and looking forward to the weekend,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting after it.”