February 10, 2012

Tiger within striking distance after Pro-Am’s second round

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — The putts refused to fall for Tiger Woods on Friday in the second round of the $6.4 million AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Not that he isn’t within striking distance in his first PGA Tour start of 2012.

After opening with a 4-under-par 68 on Thursday at Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Woods shot a 2-under 68 Friday on the easier Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. He’s at 6-under through two rounds, six strokes behind pacesetter Charlie Wi.

Ironically, the 36-year-old Woods attended Stanford University, while the 40-year-old Wi played at rival Cal. Both were raised in southern California and played junior golf against each other.

Playing in cool and drizzly conditions for much of the round, Woods carded four birdies and two bogeys. His ball-striking was efficient, hitting 16 of 18 greens and 11 of 13 fairways in regulation — there are three par-5s and five par-3s — but Tiger was seldom close to the hole and unable to be overly aggressive.

“I hit good putts,” Woods said afterward. “I’m not displeased with my putting at all. I just didn’t hit the ball in the right spots to give myself the right looks. If we were putting on smooth greens, it would be a totally different deal. I know I can put those in all day. But when you’re putting on these, you have to put the ball below the hole and take out some of the movement.”

Paired with Arjun Atwal and amateurs Tony Romo and Danny Lane, Woods birdied his first hole, a 391-yard par-4, for the second straight day.

He followed with pars at the second and third holes. At the par-4 fourth, Woods drove into a fairway bunker, blasted out and was unable to save par, just missing from about 10 feet. Tiger nearly regained the dropped shot at the par-4 fifth, but was unable to convert his birdie attempt from just outside 10 feet.

Woods hit two nice shots at the par-5 sixth, leaving himself a 10-foot eagle putt. The ball missed left, but he carded his second birdie of the round.

At the par-3 seventh, Woods hit a nice iron 15 feet from the cup and poured in the birdie putt. He closed out the side with pars at eight and nine, just missing another good birdie opportunity at the par-3 ninth, and made the turn in 2-under 32.

Woods parred the 10th and 11th holes, then reached the par-5 12th hole in two. Tiger hit his third shot from 86 yards within two feet of the cup for an easy birdie.

With the mist turning to light rain and the temperatures dropping — a dramatic change from Thursday, when the entire Monterey Peninsula was bathed in sunshine — Tiger parred 13, 14 and 15. He dropped a stroke at the par-4 16th, then parred the final two holes.

“The transition wasn’t that bad,” Woods said of the weather.

Woods tweaked his right wrist while hitting his second shot out of a divot from an uphill lie at the eighth hole.

“Yea, it hurt like hell when I did it,” he said.

Woods said it didn’t cause him any problems going forward.

“No, just that one shot,” said Woods. “Once I popped it back in, it was good. It was just a joint.”

Woods said he’s not far off from posting a low round.

“Yea, it’s very close,” he said. “I got my ball-striking to where I feel very comfortable hitting the shots. I just need to make a couple putts to get on a roll.”

That’s what happened in 1997, when Woods shot 63-64 at Pebble Beach on the weekend and wound up tying for second place, one stroke behind buddy Mark O’Meara.

Woods did even better in 2000, overcoming a five-stroke deficit to Matt Gogel entering the final round and winning the tournament, thanks to a 64.

Four months later, Woods won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by a record-breaking 15 strokes.

“I’ve had some good rounds over there,” said Woods. “So I’m looking forward to posting one of those tomorrow.”

Woods is scheduled to start Saturday at 11:22 a.m. on the 10th tee at Pebble Beach with Atwal, Romo and Lane.