New mindset helps Woodland lead

MAUI • Gary Woodland admitted that he used to come to the Tournament of Champions to "enjoy the views" and the Maui life.

This time, though, he has a different mindset. The 34-year-old American was more aggressive and fired his second straight six-under 67 to grab a three-shot halfway lead.

Woodland, seeking his fourth PGA Tour win, used a streak of five consecutive birdies, beginning at the No. 11, to reach 12-under 134.

World No. 8 Rory McIlroy (68), Bryson DeChambeau (68) and first-round leader Kevin Tway (71) are tied for second at nine under.

"I've had that (relaxed) mindset a couple times that I've been here, not prepared, excited to be here," Woodland said. "But I knew I wanted to be prepared coming in. I have a little different mindset this week, playing a little more aggressive, trying to contend and win instead of just enjoying the views out here, which I've done in the past."

The American went on a roll last summer, finishing in the top 12 in six out of seven starts globally.

But he has failed to convert each of his previous four 36-hole leads into victories. His last win came at last February's Phoenix Open.

McIlroy is not the only former Major winner still in the hunt, as Justin Thomas is tied for sixth after posting a one-under 72.

Rookie Cameron Champ (68) and Xander Schauffele (67) are keeping Thomas company at seven under, five adrift of Woodland.

"I stayed patient," McIlroy said.

"The front nine's the tough nine on this golf course, and I had a couple opportunities, but I just thought if I could get through that first nine under par, I would have a few chances on the back nine.

"And thankfully I was able to take advantage."

Defending champion Dustin Johnson, who shot 74 and slipped seven strokes behind the lead, said he did not blame a marshal for his role in incurring a two-stroke penalty for hitting the wrong ball.

He put his tee shot into a penalty area, the new terminology used for a hazard under changes to golf's rules implemented at the start of the year, at the par-four fourth.

The world No. 3 was directed by a marshal towards a ball in the long tropical grass and a quick glance confirmed it had a logo of the brand he plays. He then hacked the ball back into play, only to stumble upon his ball a few yards further on, in short rough.

"Obviously it was my fault," he said. "There was a ball right there and it was a TaylorMade. I could see the logo on the side so, obviously, I just assumed it was mine."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 06, 2019, with the headline 'New mindset helps Woodland lead'. Print Edition | Subscribe