It’s so close he can taste it but it remains to be seen if Tiger Woods can translate the positive feelings he’s generated in the first two rounds of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Firestone Country Club into a sustained challenge for next week’s US PGA Championship in Atlanta.
Relieved and energised to shoot a two under 68 on his comeback from a 12-week break in Thursday’s first round, the former world number one was equally enthused by the state of his game despite following up with a one-over par 71 yesterday.
“I know my stats don’t show it, but just the way I’m driving the golf ball, the start lines are so much tighter, and the shape of the shots are so much tighter,” he said. “You know, just like B(ryon) and I were talking out there, I’m so close to putting the ball on a string, so it’s coming.”
Question marks still remain over Woods’ ability as a putter and those doubts re-emerged yesterday as he took 32 putts on the greens, missing from 18 inches for par early in his round.
With his old Scotty Cameron r back in the bag this week, the world No 28 took 29 putts in round one but he confessed that the blade had let him down yesterday as he finished his day seven strokes behind the eight under par clubhouse target set by Australia’s Adam Scott (70) and American Rickie Fowler (64), Ryan Moore (66) and Keegan Bradley (65).
“I didn’t putt as well as I did yesterday and consequently I just never got the round going,” Woods said.
Starting on the back nine with close friend Darren Clarke (74), he bogeyed the 14th in jaw-dropping fashion when he drove into a fairway bunker, laid up and the zipped a wedge back to just 18 inches.
Casually stepping up to tap in for par, he walked away to compose himself after his putt horseshoed around the hole and stayed above ground.
Another shot went at the next, the par-three 15th, when he pulled his tee shot and missed from nine feet for par.
But there was a purple patch to come. He birdied the 16th from 10 feet and the 17th from just six to get back to two under par for the tournament and should really have birdied the 18th after a towering wedge to six feet.
However, his back nine was a sea on inconsistencies. After starting back with four straight pars, he bogeyed the fourth, birdied the short fifth from eight feet and then double bogeyed the sixth when he carved his drive into trees on the right, overshot the green with his second and the chipped through the green to the apron from where the three-putted from 50 feet for a six.
He hit back with a birdie two at the seventh and parred in for his 71. And whole the statistics say he hit eight fairways, three more than the first round, and 11 greens, he called the numbers deceptive and preferred to lament his putter rather than his misses with the longer clubs.
“Today was not very good,” he said of his form on the greens. “The path wasn’t very good going back. It was underneath the path and it was under the plan, and it was just not very good.”
Rory McIlroy said at the start of the week that a top 20 finish would be a good result for a man playing in his first event after three months on the sidelines with knee and achilles problems.
Tiger, however, was having none of it.
Asked by a reporter if he was he tempted to ease his way back into the tournament scene, he stared back at his inquisitor and said: “No.”
“Never have. Why show up at a tournament if you’re not there to win? There’s no reason to come.”
But, reasoned the scribe, “there would be other guys who came back from injury…”
Cutting him off, Woods said: “I’m not other guys.”