Tiger Woods kept alive the possibility of pulling off one of the biggest comebacks since Lazarus by remaining in contention ahead of the weekend rounds of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
Image from Bernie McGuire
For a second day running Woods continued to defy the skeptics, soaring into the then lead thanks to a ninth-hole eagle and also producing four birdies in a round of 68 for a seven-under par tally on the Albany course.
If left the long-time former World No. 1 heading into day three trailing five shots behind fellow American Charley Hoffman who posted a 63 to open-up a three-shot lead at 12-under par.
It has been four years, three months and 28 days since Woods last tasted success and that was seeing his young son, Charlie emerging from the crowd to greet his father winning the 2013 WGC – Bridgestone Invitational.
The former long-time World No. 1 has kept himself in frame in what would be be a remarkable sixth Hero World Challenge success and his 107th pro career title if he were able to achieve the victory.
Woods was asked first after a second 18-holes in 10 months to describe in one word his second round.
“Successful,” said Woods.
“It was successful as I went out there on the front nine and shot 31, and I improved that much better than my play yesterday The only thing where I really struggled was getting the speed of the greens as I did struggle reading their speed and most of the putts I missed went past the hole but I was delighted to clean-up my driving.”
“The other thing that is pleasing is how my body performed as I went out there again today being able to play to my full expectations so my body is good.”
Woods, however, was observed taking a pain-killer on the ninth hole and later revealing it was part of his surgeon’s instruction.
Woods teed-up on day two again clearly meaning business on the first by taking out the driver compared to playing partner, Henrik Stenson who went with a 3-wood. Woods was rewarded landing a 96-yard wedge to five-feet and holing the first birdie of his round.
He parred the second and found the ‘side door’ with his birdie putt at the par five, third hole to move to five-under par.
Woods almost slam-dunked his second shot at the par-4 fourth before holing a four-footer for birdie to move into a then share of the lead at six-under par.
He lipped-out for birdie at five before sending a fairway marshal scurrying to get out of the way with an errant drive left at the sixth leading to a par while he got up-and-down from a greenside bunker at seven to also save par.
Woods saved par at both seven and eight before the highlight of his round in finding the green at the par-5 ninth hole and sensationally holing a 15-foot eagle putt to go into the lead at eight-under par.
“The standout shot today easily was my second shot into nine as I had 265-yards and took something off that with the wind and it came down nicely,” he said.
Woods headed to the 10th stopping momentarily when Fort Lauderdale businessman, Joseph Avallone remarked: “You’re playing with a lot of heart, Tiger”.
Woods responded: “Thank you!”.
Woods then went to nine-under holing a three-footer at 11 but dropped a first shot in three-putting the par-3 13th.
He then parred the next four holes before a loose drive right on the last ahead of only a second bogey in his round.
And before heading to the clubhouse Woods addressed all the hype surrounding his long-awaited return to competition.
“I guess they have to come up with some sort of story but all I want to do is just go out there and compete, and as I told you guys earlier in the week I didn’t know what to expect,” he said.
“I hadn’t played. I hadn’t competed. I hadn’t had a fused back before so these are all new things to me, so you can see even now with a fused back I still can generate some speed out there.”
“These are all things I have had to learn and re-learn. I am standing here in a new body and I am getting used to it.”
The last occasion Woods strung together any sub-70 scores was in shooting 64, 65 and also a 68 over the first three days of the 2015 Wyndham Championship.
The Wyndham was also Woods last regular PGA or any other ‘main’ Tour four-rounder.
He contested all four rounds of last year’s Hero World Challenge but broke 70 just once.
Woods was asked by Irish Golfer Magazine if he could put a percentage on how much he has improved following round one and now round two.
“I don’t know a percentage but it certainly has gotten better,” he said.
“I feel more comfortable. I felt more comfortabel on the first few holes. I knew what the adrenaline was going to feel like, which is nice.”
“It was definitely coursing through my systems and it was a great feeling. Yesterday, I kind of missed it.”