After playing his final four holes in four-over enroute to a three-over-par 75 on day one of the Hero World Championship, Tiger Woods went round in five strokes less on day two as he continues to ease his way into the latest comeback attempt.
And his second round couldn’t scarcely have started in better fashion as he split the fairway at the first before wedging to six feet and draining the putt, then hit it a foot closer at the par-3 second and moved to two-under through two.
The promising start continued when he made another pair of back-to-back birdies on six and seven and he headed for the back nine at -4 for the day and as one of the hottest players on the course.
Chances came and went at 11 and 13, the former a par-5 that he could only par after under-hitting his third shot from 92 yards and at the latter, a nicely flighted approach left him 13 feet for birdie, only to gun his first putt five feet past and miss the one coming back.
The 14th and 15th are two of the easier holes on the course, the first a drivable par-4 and the second a short par-5. He missed the green to the right on 14 and pulled his eventual five-foot birdie putt wide of the hole. Then on 15, where an errant drive had resulted in a double-bogey-seven on day one, having split the fairway and 9-iron in hand, he inexplicably had to hole a 15-footer for bogey, much to his frustration.
Having played the two easiest holes in +1, he headed to one of the most difficult on the course and failed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker to fall back to +2 overall.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 1, 2023
A fighter to the last, however, he’d roll in a sliding 30-footer on 17 to get back to +1 and, completed a very tidy par-save from the heavy rough to the left of the 18th green to sign for a two-under 70 and put another encouraging round in the books.
The most encouraging aspect, however, was that for the second day straight, Woods looked to be walking with relative ease, swinging with relative freedom and there were more than a few hints that the Tiger of old still has plenty to offer when facing off against the top players in the game.
“I cleaned it up a little from yesterday, for sure,” Woods said afterwards. “I didn’t quite have the finish I would have liked, missed a few putts coming in, made a couple of little mistakes but overall it was a better start, better commitment and I just wish I could’ve made a few more putts coming in.”
In similar fashion to day one, maintaining the momentum on the inward loop proved difficult, but Woods felt that the sloppy finishes were a result of a lack of match practice.
“Maybe because I haven’t played in a while,” he jokingly replied to a question about his poor finishes, “I’ve played what, one tournament all year, two tournaments all year, so yeah, I’m rusty and this golf course will bring that out of you as well. Some of these pin locations, I mean, you can run the tables here or you can go the other way pretty quickly and unfortunately I haven’t finished my last two rounds the way I would’ve liked to but I’ve got two more days to improve it.”
“It’s different,” he went on to add about tournament golf in contrast to the practice sessions he’s been undergoing at home in Florida. “I can play at home, I can walk, walk beaches, do all those things at home, but it’s different when you’re at game speed. Like I was saying yesterday, game speed’s different than home speed. You can simulate all you want at home, and I had it the best I possibly can. We played a lot of money matches at home and tried to simulate it, but it’s just different. The mind’s racing more, the anxiety, the emotions are just different than at home. You can always drop a ball at home, no big deal. Here it’s going to cost you. Putting pen and paper together, it’s just a little bit different.”
The ankle issue that was his most troubling and the reason why he was forced to withdraw from the Masters back in April and for which he subsequently went under the knife continues to improve and that was one of the most encouraging aspects of the two day’s play so far.
“Well, I think being able to compete and play again,” he responded when asked what has pleased him most so far this week. “I haven’t done it. And I know that, I was telling you guys, my ankle doesn’t hurt, which it doesn’t. Other things are bugging me and bothering me, but the ankle’s fine. That was nice to be able to get out there and walk and not feel the things I felt early in the year while playing and trying to I guess knock that out of the memory banks and create new ones.”