More birdies for Tiger, and the lead at Doral
By Doug Ferguson, APDORAL, Florida--Tiger Woods struggled on the practice range, and he didn't feel much better two holes into his second round Friday at the Cadillac Championship. He would not have guessed this would be the day to set a personal record for birdies, much less wind up with a two-shot lead.
March 10, 2013, 12:13 am TWN
“All I need is one shot,” he said. “And as soon as I feel it on one, I can pretty much carry through. And I did that today.”
It was a 4-iron on the par-3 fourth hole, the toughest on the Blue Monster.
Woods hit a bullet with a slight fade at the left edge of the green and heard the crowd cheer as the slope and the grain took the ball to within 4 feet for birdie.
And just like that, he was on his way.
In a World Golf Championship with the biggest names in the hunt, Woods ran off six birdies in an eight-hole stretch around the turn in a clean, crisp exhibition. That sent him to a 7-under 65 and a two-shot lead over former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.
Woods has made 17 birdies in two rounds, his most ever on the PGA Tour, though that wasn't the most important number.
Woods followed that 4-iron with a wedge he stuffed to inside 2 feet. He added a collection of 10- to 15-foot birdie putts, and ended his big run with another 4-iron with a totally different shape, this one high and soft to 15 feet on the 224-yard 13th hole. Those par 3s ranked as the two toughest at Doral on Friday, and he birdied them both.
A birdie-birdie finish by McDowell gave him a 67 and prevented a dream final group for the weekend at Doral — Woods and longtime nemesis Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson, sparked by a visit to Augusta National earlier in the week, hit a 9-iron that stopped inches from dropping for a hole-in-one on the par-3 ninth. He had a 67 and was three shots behind, along with Steve Stricker (67).
Rory McIlroy showed signs of turning the corner with a 69, although he ended with a sloppy three-putt bogey. It was his first round under par this year, a small consolation for the world's No. 1 player. He was still 11 shots behind Woods.
Woods, who once owned these WGCs, has not won the last 10 he's played. But after a key putting tip from Stricker on Wednesday afternoon, Woods looks as comfortable as ever on a Blue Monster course where he has won three times.
“It's going to be tough to catch him,” Stricker said. “We all know when he gets out in front, he's tough to catch and tough to beat. Looks like he's playing well. Looks like all parts of his game are working.”
The greens already are firm and crusty under a week of sunshine and dry air. Woods, McDowell and most everyone else expects it to only get worse.
Donald Trump, who bought the resort a year ago, plans a big makeover on the Blue Monster with construction to start right after the tournament. If that's the case, it could be reminiscent of Bay Hill a year ago, where Woods outlasted McDowell on the final day.
“It basically was a U.S. Open that broke out in Orlando,” Woods said. “We don't get too many opportunities where the weather cooperates, where they can push the golf course to a point where it's pretty tough like that.”
Not that he would mind. Woods has thrived on the toughest courses over the years, one reason he has 14 majors.
“It would be fun,” he said.
More fun is being atop the leaderboard, especially on a course where Woods has a history of winning. He has a 35-10 record when he has at least a share of the 36-hole lead, though he is only 2-2 in the last year. Those events he failed to win were the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods looks over his putt on the ninth green during the second round of the Cadillac Championship golf tournament in Doral, Florida, Friday, March 8.(AP)