HOWEVER you look at it, Tiger Woods has made a big leap forward shooting 7- under 65 in the second round of the Hero World Challenge.
But the man himself was not getting carried away afterwards even if his short game looked as sharp as ever at the Albany Golf and Beach Club in the Bahamas.
Playing alone after Justin Rose withdrew because of a back injury, Woods made seven birdies, came within inches of holing out for eagle at the par-5 ninth and nearly aced the par-3 12th.
But more significantly, Woods made two clutch par saving putts in the round, one at the eighth, where he hit his tee shot in the bushes, and another at the 16th which he later said he considered just as important.
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In his heyday, when he won 14 majors, they were a feature of his game.
Now playing only his second competitive round in almost 16 months, many feel he looks to be back.
“It feels good,” said Woods, knowing full-well an exhibition match in the Bahamas is a far cry from the white hot cauldron of a major.
“As I said yesterday, I had it going through eight holes and I lost it and finished over par.
“Today was different. I turned those two par fives (he birdied nine and 11) into under par and there’s four shots right there. “Consequently, I was able to play the middle part of the round better, turned it around and kept the momentum going and I moved myself up the board.”
The day began well with Tiger bombing his tee shot down the first fairway.
He had about 70 metres to the hole, hitting a deft wedge close and making the putt.
Then at the sixth, a par five, he canned a routine uphill putt.
At the eight he made a crucial up and down after finding himself with a bad lie off the tee. “It was on a beach,” he joked later.
“They are big par putts to make and I made a couple of them today,” Woods said.
He changed his strategy Friday at the par-5 ninth, opting to lay up with a five wood off the tee then hitting a 3-iron and pitching wedge from 115 metres that left him with “a little kick in” for birdie.
That was the final stroke in an outward 33, the same as his opening round.
But unlike day one the kept running hot, a birdie at 11 followed by the shot of the day at the par-3 12th, where he hit a 6-iron off that almost went in the hole.
“I couldn’t hit it any better than that,” he said later of his fifth birdie of the day.
Two more followed at 14 and 15 before the most important moment of the day at 16.
“To not drop a shot (at 16), that was a big one,” he said.
Woods is seven behind leaders, Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama who are 12-under after 36 holes.
But regardless of their performance, it’s all about Tiger this week.
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