Woods takes lead at Tour Championship
ATLANTA – Tiger Woods had the lead and was ready to turn the Tour Championship into a runaway Friday.
First came a 5-wood up the hill on the par-5 15th that narrowly cleared the bunker, hopped onto the green and rolled toward the flag until it stopped just over 4 feet away. On the next hole, Woods started walking before his shot began its descent to inside 4 feet.
There were so many fans around the 16th green that it was hard to read the video board showing Woods’ PGA Tour ranking on putts between 4 and 5 feet. No one would have been surprised to see that Woods had only missed seven from that length all year.
This time, he missed them both.
Woods still wound up in the lead Friday at East Lake with a 2-under 68, one shot ahead of Padraig Harrington and Sean O’Hair. Woods might have an even stronger grip on the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus.
Major Moments 2009: Tour Championship: Friday recap
He was fuming over the missed putts. He found perspective shortly after signing for his seventh consecutive round in the 60s.
“The day as a whole was a good day,” Woods said. “I shot under par, and I got myself ... in the lead.”
It couldn’t have been that bad, not when all the attention was on two holes where he made a birdie and a par.
“Obviously, I didn’t expect him to miss two in a row,” Harrington said after a 69. “I looked up at the stats on the board just before he hit it, and he’s No. 1 from that range. I don’t think he misses two in a row all year. That’s probably for sure he hasn’t missed two in a row on the year. So it was a surprise.”
Not so surprising was Woods in the lead, his 16th time this year to end a round atop the leaderboard. He was at 5-under 135 and in great position for the FedEx Cup. None of the other top five seeds, who can win the $10 million bonus with a victory at East Lake, were among the top 10 on the leaderboard going into the weekend.
Even so, Woods could have made it easier on himself.
One moment, it looked as though Woods was about to double the size of his lead to four shots. Three holes and 30 minutes later, everything pointed Harrington tying for the lead.
When it was over, the possibilities were plenty.
Ernie Els came to life with five birdies over his last 10 holes for a 66 and was only two shots behind at 3-under 137. Kenny Perry, who nearly wilted in the heat Thursday, also had a 66 and was at 2-under 138, along with Jerry Kelly (67).
Masters change Angel Cabrera (67), U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover (71) and British Open champion Stewart Cink (72) were in the group at 1-under 139.
The FedEx Cup is still a possibility for the likes of Harrington and O’Hair, both of whom are more concerned now with the crystal trophy and mere $1.35 million from winning the Tour Championship.
“If I win this golf tournament and Tiger finishes second ... I’m going to be throwing a big party and jumping with joy,” O’Hair said. “If I don’t win the 10 million bucks, I should have played better. A win is a win. Let’s face it, I’ve got to win this golf tournament to win the $10 million. If I do my job, that’s all I can do.”
It all starts with Woods, who appears to be on his game.
Three straight birdies to close out the front nine put Woods atop the leaderboard, and he really put on a show over the final hour before fans that crammed behind the ropes on both sides of the fairway.
He turned a sure bogey into an amazing par on the 13th. From a suspect lie in the bunker, 190 yards up the hill toward the green, his shot came perfectly and landed just over the back, although it sank to the bottom of the Bermuda rough and he could only chip to 20 feet. Woods saved par with a putt that curled in the right side on the final turn.
Then came the eagle chance on the 15th and the birdie chance at the 16th, both misses. Woods made a tough par on the 17th with a downhill putt from 8 feet, then closed out his unpredictable back nine with a bogey on the par-3 18th. He had to hit a flop shot from left of the green and came up a yard short, the ball staying in the rough.
“Today’s round probably could have been one or two better, for sure,” Woods said. “But overall, I’m very pleased with my scoring the first two days.”
Harrington missed his share of putts – from 6 feet on the 14th leading to bogey, and a 5-foot birdie chance he missed on the 17th. He was pleased to still be in the hunt for the Tour Championship, even as the FedEx Cup looks out of reach.
“I’m in good position as regards to the tournament, probably not the best position as regards to the FedEx Cup,” Harrington said. “It’s a little bit out of my control. But I’m looking forward to the weekend. I left a few shots out there toward the end, but overall, I knew there was another 36 holes to play. And I’ve got to make things happen at some stage.”
Woods and Harrington will be paired Saturday for the ninth time this year, five of those over the last two months. Harrington enjoys the company, even though Woods has gotten the best of him.
“You know you’re going to be in contention, and you know you’re going to have a chance of winning the tournament the more you play with Tiger,” Harrington said.