February 24, 2018

Woods Four Back Heading Into Weekend

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – What a difference a week makes.

Not only will Tiger Woods be around for the weekend, he’s in contention at the Honda Classic. This, after a second-round 76 and missing the cut by four strokes last week at the Genesis Open.

Making only his third PGA Tour start of the year, Woods backed up an even-par opening round at the Champion Course at PGA National with a 1-over 71 on Friday. Both were achieved in windy conditions that left him tied for 14th at 1-over 141, four strokes behind co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark.

“I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” the 42-year-old Woods said afterward. “Four back with 36 holes to go, I mean anybody can win it right now. It’s wide open.”

Woods has always preferred tougher conditions because it reduces the number of contenders. After two rounds, Woods has proven equal to the challenge, overcoming a few poor swings with resilience, tenacity and grit.

Take Friday. After shooting an exemplary 1-under 34 on the front nine, he parred five consecutive holes on the tougher back side but stumbled at the difficult par-3 15th, the first of a treacherous three-hole stretch nicknamed the Bear Trap. Woods’ tee shot found water and he sustained a double-bogey.

At the par-4 16th, he three-putted from Miami and some suspected the wheels were coming off.

Not so. At the 191-yard par-3 17th, the toughest hole on the course, Woods smoothed a 5-iron to 12 feet and buried the birdie putt, one of only nine all day, earning a standing ovation from the crowd.

The water-lined hole played to an average of 3.74 and the field was a combined 104 over par. Nearly a quarter of them found the drink.

“Five (iron) was too much, so I kind of chipped a 5 in there and it worked out well,” Woods said.

He parred 18 and is right in the thick of things.

“I’m right there in the ballgame,” said Woods.

Competing in his home state for the first time since 2015 Players Championship, Woods is regaining competitive form after a long, injury-induced absence that included four back surgeries. Many skeptics have written him off, and a year ago, he wasn’t sure if he would ever rejoin the PGA Tour.

Admittedly, he still has a lot of work to do and is making up for lost time. But if the first two rounds at PGA National are any indication, he’s on the right track.

“We’ve still got a long way to go,” said Woods, whose 79 Tour wins rank second all-time to Sam Snead.

A late starter Friday with Patton Kizzire and Brandt Snedeker, Woods scrapped and grinded as only he can. Unlike last week at Riviera Country Club, he is keeping the ball in play and has had better distance control with his irons in tougher conditions.

Through two rounds, he has hit 15 of 28 fairways and 21 of 36 greens.
The weekend will provide another big challenge, but Woods welcomes it. Performing under pressure is a must to find the winner’s circle again. It will also show how far he has come and how much he needs to improve.

“I’d be shocked if he’s not there on Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, paired with him the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

Woods tees off at 12:10 p.m. ET with good pal Jason Dufner.