Tiger Woods birdied his closing two holes to move two shots clear of his rivals with a second straight round of 64 on day two of the very rain-affected inaugural ZoZo Championship here in Japan.
Woods moved to 12-under par with reigning U.S. Open champion, Gary Woodland very much impressing for a place in Woods’ USA Presidents Cup later this year in adding a 66 to his opening 64 to be in second place at 10-under.
Former PGA Championship winner, Keegan Bradley (63) is tied in third place with Japan hero, Hideki Matsuyama (67) on eight-under par.
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy moved-up 26 places and into a share of 21st place, brilliantly taking full advantage of the 10th tee being moved forward in commencing his round by holing his second shot for an eagle ‘2’.
McIlroy then raced to five-under for his round thanks to birdies at his 5th, 7th and 9th holes but then stalled over his inward half in picking-up a birdie on his 11th but then dropping a shot at his last in a round of 65 for a three-under par tally.
Open Champion, Shane Lowry struggled early on to be one-over par through seven holes ahead of grabbing a birdie hat-trick from his 10th hole but only to give two shots back in doubling the par-3 16th before a last hole birdie in a round of 69 to drop back to a tie for 37th place at one-under par.
Lowry now has the distinction of teeing-off first on Sunday at 6.30am local time, weather permitting.
Indeed, very heavy rain forced the postponement to Friday’s play with PGA Tour officials first moving the restart of the second round to 6.30am Saturday local time. That was then moved to 9.30am but it was not until 10am when the first groups managed to tee-off and under a preferred lie rule.
In fact, nearly 10 inches has deluged the Japan course since the close of play on Thursday with the only hole really affected being the par-4 10th that was reduced to 376-yards.
Woods finally managed to tee off just after noon local time and ended his round just prior to 5pm Japan time.
In teeing-off in the $US 9.75m event, there was the strange sight of empty grandstands and fairways devoid of spectators in golf-mad Japan and this all due to the PGA Tour declaring the walking routes around the Accordia Narashino course in Chida unsafe for the volume of spectators expected to descend on the course.
The loss of play on Friday, given the shorter daylight hours, will see the third round now commence on Sunday at 6.30am local time with the event to proceed into a Monday finish.
Though that will not worry Woods as he seeks to capture a record-equalling 82nd PGA Tour title.
“Well, we were surprised, I think the whole field was surprised with the fact that we could have played it down today, the fairways drained so well,” said Woods when asked the condition of the course.
“When we have ball in hand, you know the guys are going to go low. Soft greens like this, the ball’s just plugging in the greens. Don’t have to worry about too much spin, which is great; just attack. The conditions allow us to be really aggressive.”
Woods began his round birdie, bogey and then birdied the seventh to make the turn at one-under par for his round but two shots adrift of management stablemate Woodland.
The 15-time Major winner then birdied the 10th, 11th and 13th holes to draw level with Woodland ahead of regaining his lead with a pair of closing birdies.
“I felt pretty good about it today. I hit the ball a little bit better than I did yesterday, which is nice, and I had the speed of the greens again,” said Woods.
“The greens are soft, they’re a little bit slower today and we could give it a little bit extra rap on it.”
And Woods was asked what he thought of the scenario of no spectators being allowed onto the course with the only exception being a number of VIP guests, family members, media and officials.
“Today was just one of those days where we did this at Congressional one year when the derecho came through there and it was just like a ghost town,” said Woods.
“This was a little bit different. When you make a putt and you kind of put your hand up, you’re like, hmm, don’t really need to put your hand up because there’s no one clapping.”