Solid Putts put Woods in hunt

Former world No. 1 Tiger Woods, now languishing outside the top 250 in the rankings, teeing off on the 13th hole during the second round of the Quicken Loans National. While his latest swing changes have not borne fruit, he has putted aggressively an
Former world No. 1 Tiger Woods, now languishing outside the top 250 in the rankings, teeing off on the 13th hole during the second round of the Quicken Loans National. While his latest swing changes have not borne fruit, he has putted aggressively and yet comfortably in the event.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

While he's in contention at halfway mark, he knows it will take time before his game clicks

GAINESVILLE (Virginia) • Tiger Woods matched his low round of the year with a sizzling five-under 66 on Friday and moved into contention to end a two-year-long victory drought at the PGA Quicken Loans National.

The 14-time Major champion, who is also the golf tournament's host, sank a 36-foot birdie putt on his penultimate hole to highlight a day when he leapt into a share of fifth spot. He is on eight-under 134 for 36 holes, three back from leader Ryo Ishikawa.

"I'm in a good spot," Woods said.

"I'm looking forward to the weekend. I'm looking forward to getting after it."

The American shot 68 in Thursday's first round with four birdies in a row to start the back nine. It was his longest birdie run since the 2013 WGC Bridgestone Invitational, the last event he won in a season where he took five titles and PGA Player of the Year honours.

"I feel like I can still compete and win," he said.

"It's not that long ago I was Player of the Year. I just need to keep playing and keep plugging along."

The former world No. 1, now ranked 266th, struggled much of last year with back problems. He played poorly this season trying to make changes in his swing motion.

But the 39-year-old has stressed patience and warned fans it would take time to regain top form.

"I know my ranking is awful," he said. "Eventually, I'll climb back. I've been through this before. Got to be patient with it.

"I know what I'm doing out there. It's just a matter of time before things click in and get more jelled."

His strong round on Friday took time to build as well. He began on the back nine with four pars, then botched his tee shot and made bogey at the par-five 14th.

He responded with birdies at 15 and 18 but pondered what might have been after four lip-outs on early birdie putts.

"This could have been one of those really low rounds," he said.

He holed birdie putts of 10 feet at 18, four feet at the first, 20 feet at the par-three fourth and seven feet at the par-five fifth before his monster birdie at the par-five eighth.

"That bomb on eight, that was a bit lucky but I'll take it," he said.

"If I had not seen (Nick Watney's) putt first, I probably would not have played that much break.

"His putt snapped at the end and I gave it some extra, another foot and a half, and it went in."

The 23-year-old Japanese Ishikawa, co-leader overnight with South African veteran Retief Goosen, mixed seven birdies with four bogeys to post 131. He is one ahead of Americans Rickie Fowler (65) and Kevin Chappell (68).

Swede David Lingmerth (65) was alone at 133.

Billy Hurley had double cause to celebrate when he made the cut.

He then learnt that his father had been found by police after going missing 12 days earlier.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

QUICKEN LOANS NATIONAL
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2015, with the headline 'SOLID PUTTS PUT WOODS IN HUNT'. Print Edition | Subscribe