Golf: Tiger back with a swagger

Tiger Woods of the United States lines up a putt on the ninth green during round three of the Hero World Challenge at Albany, The Bahamas on Dec 3, 2016 in Nassau, Bahamas.
Tiger Woods of the United States lines up a putt on the ninth green during round three of the Hero World Challenge at Albany, The Bahamas on Dec 3, 2016 in Nassau, Bahamas.PHOTO: AFP

He shoots flawless 65 to give glimpse of focus, form that made him golf's most feared player

NASSAU (The Bahamas) • Tiger Woods evoked memories of his glory days by firing a bogey-free seven-under 65 on Friday at the Hero World Challenge in his second round after a 16-month lay-off following back surgery.

The former world No. 1, a 14-time Major champion, shot his best sub-par round since a 10-under 62 in the second round of the 2013 edition of the elite 18-player event that benefits his charity foundation.

The 40-year-old, who teed off alone after English partner Justin Rose pulled out with a bad back, was three under on the front nine and four under on the homeward stretch.

After a rollercoaster opening round, Woods displayed the type of focus and form that once made him the dominant player of his generation.

An eight-shot improvement from his opening 73 lifted him into a tie for ninth at six-under 138, six shots behind co-leaders American Dustin Johnson (66) and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama (67).

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    Tiger Woods' improvement after he went from an opening 73 to a second-round 65.

Only defending champion Bubba Watson (63) and Brandt Snedeker (64) had better rounds on another hot, humid day.

"It feels good. As I said yesterday I had it going through eight holes and lost it and finished over par," Woods told Golf Channel. "Today was different... I played the middle part of the round better, turned it around and kept the momentum going and moved myself up the board."

He got off to a bright start, rolling in a four-footer for a birdie on his opening hole, then reeled off four straight pars before he birdied the sixth for the second consecutive day.

With another birdie at the ninth, Woods entered the turn at three under, the same as he did in the first round before his game unravelled.

But this time, he held firm on the back nine, picking up birdies at the 11th, 12th, 14th and 15th but it was a 25-foot putt to save par at the 16th that was the highlight of the round, prompting a fist pump from the American.

"To not drop a shot, to not lose the momentum, that was a biggie," said Woods.

"It was very important for me. I don't know what it is about playing and competing, but keeping cards clean, there's something really special and it feels pretty good doing that."

He sank a three-foot par putt at the 18th to finish his round after only 2hr 54min.

Woods, who turns 41 later this month, has not produced such a score against a fuller field since a nine-under 61 in the second round of his most recent victory - the 2013 World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.

"I hadn't felt the competitive flow and feel in a long time. It has been almost a year and a half," Woods said.

"And today I had it early. The first tee shot I felt very comfortable."

Woods, ranked 898th in the world, ended the longest lay-off of his career after 466 days, then electrified those seeking signs he might regain his old dominant form.

"I turned those holes around. Consequently, the momentum, the feel of the entire round changes," he added. "That's what you have to do. That's how you win golf tournaments."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 04, 2016, with the headline 'Tiger back with a swagger'. Print Edition | Subscribe