In golf they call Saturday, the moving day. And, no one moves the way Tiger Woods does when in full flow. Saturday at the PLAYERS Championships was such a day and it truly seemed ‘Tiger’ was back.
Through the first 14 holes, there was never a stage when Woods had back-to-back pars. He birdied eight of the first 13 holes and zoomed up from overnight 1-under 143 and Tied-67. The run came to an end on 14th as he failed to reach the green and then missed a 23-footer for par for his first bogey and followed that with par on 15th.
Woods’ run overshadowed Jordan Spieth’s 7-under 65 as both were Tied-8th but Woods had three more to play.
Late on Friday, Anirban Lahiri’s long wait to see if he was making the cut ended in vain as he missed the cut for the third time in as many starts at the PLAYERS. Starting with a solid 69 under his belt, he looked stronger with two birdies in first seven holes of the second day. Then he literally went downhill and finished at 75 and an even par 144 which ended his campaign.
Woods playing the front nine in 6-under 30, brought back #59Watch into focus a day after Webb Simpson put it on alert during his course record tying 9-under 63, which gave a two-round total of 15-under 129, tying another record.
After making the cut on the line, Woods ripped through with 8-under through 13 holes to reach 9-under for the event before his #59Watch came to an with a bogey on 14th.
Gobbling up everything inside 10 feet, he even holed a 15-footer on first and a 16-footer on fifth. Twice he had 40-footers for eagle on ninth and 11th. On the 9th, he came almost to a foot and on 11th, he was six foot and he duly holed it. Woods birdied first, second, fourth, fifth, seventh, ninth, 11th and 12th as he had eight birdies and five pars in 13 holes. He missed a 14-footer for birdie on 13th.
Woods’ front nine of 6-under 30 was his lowest ever 9-hole score at the PLAYERS and it was one better than Simpson, who had a 5-under 31 on the same stretch during his 63. Simpson flirted with a ‘59’ chance before going into water on Par-3 17th’s Island Green.
On Friday evening, Woods had to wait for over five hours to know his fate and then found out that his 72-71 held up. With the cutline oscillating swinging between -1 and -2, Woods was helped by late bogeys in closing holes from other players, two of them being World No. 2 Thomas (70) and World No. 4 Spieth (68) who bogeyed 18th.
After a front nine of 5-under 31, Simpson parred 10th and then ran six birdies in a row to be 11-under through 16 holes. Simpson, who putted magically all day, was unable to land the ball on the 24-metre wide Island green and went into the water to take a double bogey. Still he was 15-under, which gave a 5-shot lead over Charl Schwartzel (66), Patrick Cantlay (68) and Danny Lee (66).
Rory McIlroy (71-74), who seemed like making it till he hit the water on 17th, Phil Mickelson (79-73) and Rickie Fowler (74-71) were among the big names to miss the cut, while Jordan Spieth (75-68) and Justin Thomas (73-70) and Woods squeezed in on the cutline.
A bad swing on Par-3 15th was Lahiri called as, “pretty much the only bad swing all day”, but the bogey on 16th, felt like a two-shot swing from a chance for birdie to bogey. Lahiri parred 17th and 18th.
Lahiri said, “I didn’t wake advantage of the Par-5s like I should. I didn’t put myself in the right positions and I allowed the momentum to slip away after being 2-under through 7 in second round. I three-putted on nine and allowed things to get away from me on 10 and 11 and so on.” Lahiri 3-putted four times in second round.
About the Author
V Krishnaswamy is India's most widely travelled journalist. He has covered more than 20 Majors, Presidents Cup, EurAsia Cup and more than 120 international golf tournaments around the world. He has also covered seven Olympic Games, 8 Asian Games and 6 Commonwealth Games besides numerous World Championships in various sports.