Tiger Tracker: Woods takes three-shot lead

Tiger Woods watches his third shot on the fifth hole during the second round of the Chevron World Challenge.

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Tiger Woods knows he’s playing better than he has in the last two years, and he has the leaderboard to prove it.

Woods hit a half-dozen extraordinary shots Friday in the Chevron World Challenge on his way to a 5-under 67, giving him a three-shot lead over Matt Kuchar and K.J. Choi going into the weekend at Sherwood Country Club.

It was the second straight tournament that Woods had the 36-hole lead. Three weeks ago at the Australian Open, he was one shot ahead until a 75 in the third round. Woods wound up in third place at The Lakes, his best finish of the year.

With each round, it looks as though his best might not be too far behind.

Woods had two eagles, and nearly had a third with a flop shot from behind the 13th green that he was still talking about long after his round. Not even a double bogey on the par-3 15th hole when a gust knocked his ball into the water could keep him from a comfortable lead after two rounds.

“I want the lead after four days,” said Woods, winless in his last 26 official starts dating to the Australian Masters in November 2009. “Two days is nice, but four days is even better. I know I’m playing better, and it’s nice to see my position on the leaderboard equating to it.

“Two stroke-play events in a row I’ve played really well.”

Woods was at 8-under 136 and will play in the final group Saturday with Kuchar, who still is trying to figure out how to finish off a good day at Sherwood.

At least this time, Kuchar only came up short and into the water on the 18th for a bogey. In the opening round, he was two shots out of the lead until a triple bogey on the 16th and a bogey on the 17th sent him to a 72. Kuchar played well again as the wind arrived in the middle of the round, and shot 67 to match Woods and Zach Johnson for the best score of the day.

“I always thought as a player, if you had a chance ... and you want to test yourself against the very best, it seemed like, man, if you could go toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods and have a chance to beat him, that’s a real feather in your cap,” Kuchar said. “And you want his best. You don’t want to see him struggling and missing cuts. That’s no fun to say, ‘I beat Tiger Woods. He missed the cut and I had a 15th-place finish.’ You want him at his best going toe-to-toe coming down to the wire.

“And it’s fun to see him at that point.”

Choi had a three-shot lead over Woods through six holes and was staying with him until hitting in the water twice on the par-3 15th, taking a quadruple-bogey 7. Choi bounced back with a birdie and salvaged a 73.

He’s still very much in the mix, though Choi saw what he might be up against on the weekend.

“To put it simply, today he played like an artist,” Choi said about Woods. “It’s pretty clear that he’s really recovered and is back in his old form again, and he missed a few putts, but it was really good to see him play well.”

Johnson and Hunter Mahan (68) were four shots behind at 4-under 140 in the 18-player tournament.

Woods’ only bad hole was the 15th, where he had no complaints about the shot. He hit an 8-iron just like he wanted, then could only hope that the wind swirling through that corner of the small canyon left the ball alone. It didn’t. He went into the water and missed his bogey putt.

Despite a double bogey, Woods wound up expanding his lead on that hole because of Choi’s mishap.

“Not exactly how I envisioned ... increasing my lead,” Woods said. “But no, I hit a sweet shot in there. Unfortunately, I caught the wrong gust at the right time. There was nothing I could do.”

There wasn’t much wrong with the rest of his day.

On the par-5 second hole, Woods was on the side of the hill under a tree when he hit a 5-iron with a fade over the water to a front pin. He skipped sideways down the hill and clutched his fist about shoulder-high when the ball plopped down 4 feet from the cup. It’s rare for anyone, much less Woods, to show that kind of emotion on the second hole on a Friday. The shot was that good, and there was more to come.

His one bad swing on the par-5 fifth was a snap hook into the trees, and he was lucky to find the ball to punch out. From 257 yards to an elevated green, Woods hit a 3-wood left of the flag, and it caught the slope and rolled to 4 feet. What looked like a possible bogey turned into an unlikely birdie chance, until he missed the putt.

He three-putted the next hole as Choi began to retake the lead, but Woods caught him with a 4-iron to about 15 feet for eagle on No. 11, followed by a 12-foot birdie putt on the next hole and that flop shot that stopped a turn from dropping on No. 13 that left him a tap-in birdie.

Woods had a four-shot lead at the Chevron World Challenge last year, and kept that lead all the way into the final round until Graeme McDowell caught him on Sunday and beat him in a playoff. Woods has said he only had one shot that day, though now he appears to have any shot he wants.

He has shot in the 60s in eight of his last nine rounds, dating to the second round of the Frys.com Open. Even so, Woods is only halfway home to ending the longest drought of his career. Kuchar, meanwhile, is coming off a World Cup win with Gary Woodland and was happy to have a chance. There was a time when Woods was five shots clear, and it looked as though the final official event of the year in America could be a two-man race between Woods and Choi.

“I had it going yesterday, had it going today,” Kuchar said. “It’s been a good stretch for me the last couple weeks. I felt like I certainly could throw my hat there in the ring and then hope to try to catch them. I’m still a couple shots back, but with 36 holes to play, got some time to catch up.”

– Associated Press


See how it all unfolded with our Tiger Tracker below:

Hole 18: Par 4, 444 yards

With an iron on his final tee shot of the day, Tiger hits a stinger that settles in the middle of the fairway. The wind is whipping the flag around on the green in both directions and will definitely make his approach shot a tricky one.

Sitting 182 yards out - and his tee shot found a divot in the fairway - he takes his shot right at the hole, but it comes up short and lands in the sand and he will need to get up-and-down to maintain his three-stroke lead.

Tiger hits a solid shot out of the bunker - his first bunker shot in the first two rounds - and has a six-foot comebacker for par. He makes the putt and will carry a three-shot lead into the third round on Saturday.

Choi misses a birdie try and will play in the second-to-last group on Saturday, while Matt Kuchar will join Woods.

Through No. 18: 8 under for the tournament (5-under 67 on Friday)

Hole 17: Par 3, 166 yards

Only three birdies on the hole for the day and playing over par on average, Tiger takes pitching wedge and flies it over the green, but it gets a friendly kick back and is sitting in the rough with a downhill chip upcoming.

The chip heads at the hole, but stops about four feet short. Meanwhile, Choi misses an opportunity to pick up a shot, sending his birdie putt by on the left.

Tiger gives a shot back to the field with a miss on his short putt, picking up a bogey. And Choi does pick up the shot after all, making his par. Choi will need a birdie at the last to stay in the final group on Saturday.

Through No. 17: 8 under (5 under for the day)

Hole 16: Par 5, 567 yards

Tiger takes 3-wood off the tee and puts on the left side of the fairway and should be able to take a shot at the green in two.

From 245 yards, Tiger gives himself another shot at eagle with a solid shot just off the back of the green. Rickie Fowler is the only player with an eagle at No. 16 on Friday.

Tiger's eagle chip comes up short, but he makes the birdie putt to extend his lead to four strokes. He is 6 under on the par 5s for the day.

Choi birdies the hole and is now tied with Matt Kuchar in second place at 5 under.

Through No. 16: 9 under (6 under for the day)

Hole 15: Par 3, 189 yards

Tiger takes his time on the tee, judging the wind on the dangerous par 3, and he takes an aggressive line at the hole and it ends up wet and he will now need to scramble to make bogey.

Choi takes an extra club, but does the same as Tiger and both will be dropping for their third shots. Three of the last four players to play No. 15 have hit into the water, with Steve Stricker doing the same 10 minutes earlier.

From the drop zone, Tiger puts it to within eight feet, while Choi comes up short and is staring at a huge number. Choi hits his fifth shot after going into the water twice and flies into the rough in front of the green.

Tiger misses the putt and picks up a double-bogey, while Choi makes a quadruple-bogey. Woods now leads Matt Kuchar by two strokes.

Through No. 15: 8 under (5 under for the day)

Hole 14: Par 4, 455 yards

Tiger gets a big break off the tee, as his 3-wood heads toward a big tree on the left side, but it bounds through it and settles in the first cut of rough. Choi uses driver and puts it on the right side of the fairway.

Choi's second shot from 161 yards takes a firm bounce behind the hole and he'll be staring a lengthy birdie putt. Meanwhile, Tiger's second shot from 129 yards also takes a big bounce and squirms off the back of the green. It is only Tiger's second missed green of the day.

Tiger hits a nice third shot to within four feet of the hole, while Choi's putt down a steep slope settles right in front of Tiger's mark.

Tiger makes his par putt, but Choi misses to the right and Woods extends his lead to two strokes

Through No. 14: 10 under (7 under for the day)

Hole 13: Par 5, 568 yards

Hitting from an elevated tee box, Tiger takes a 3-wood off the tee and places it in the center of the fairway. Choi takes driver and also puts it into the fairway.

Sitting 284 yards out, Tiger hammers his second shot and it rolls into the greenside rough and he will have a chip at his third eagle of the day. Choi plays his second shot over the flag and into a greenside bunker and will have a tough up-and-down to salvage birdie.

Tiger hits a perfect flop shot and the ball comes to rest on the lip and he tapped in for another birdie. Choi hits a stellar shot out of the bunker and also taps in for a birdie, leaving Tiger with a one-shot lead headed to No. 14.

Through No. 13: 10 under (7 under for the day)

Hole 12: Par 3, 190 yards

Tiger seems to have it rolling, using 8-iron and having his tee shot bound up the false front to within 10 feet for another birdie try.

Choi answers immediately with a tee shot that nearly lands in the hole and both are looking at birdie putts within 10 feet.

Tiger nails his birdie putt with authority, while Choi lips out and hands the lead to Woods.

Through No. 12: 9 under (6 under for the day)

Hole 11: Par 5, 517 yards

Tiger puts his tee shot into the middle of the fairway and has 214 yards to the green. He backs off his approach shot once, grinning from ear-to-ear because the wind continues to make the golfers think twice about every shot.

Tiger hits a fantastic shot into the green and has a 20-foot eagle putt, while Choi hits his third shot to within six feet and is looking at birdie.

For the second time on Friday, Tiger slides the eagle putt into the left side of the cup to take a momentary one-shot lead. Choi picks up a birdie and the final group is tied atop the leaderboard.

Through No. 11: 8 under (5 under for the day)

Hole No. 10: Par 4, 359 yards

Tiger plays an iron off the 10th tee and finds the right side of the fairway at the short par 4. Woods' approach lands 5 feet past the hole and spins back about 15 feet, leaving him an uphill 10-footer for birdie.

Again with good speed, Woods misses just right and taps in for par. Choi isn't able to convert a 7-foot birdie putt and he remains at 7 under - one ahead.

Through No. 10: 6 under (3 under for the day)

Hole No. 9: Par 4, 422 yards

Woods is not happy with his approach into the ninth green, which leaks right and leaves him a 30-foot, cross-green putt for birdie.

With good speed, Woods' putt comes up a few inches short and he taps in for par. Meanwhile, Choi struggles around the green and makes a 10-footer for bogey. It's now Choi by one over Woods.

Through No. 9: 6 under (3 under for the day)

Hole No. 8: Par 3, 228 yards

With a low ball flight, Woods sticks his tee shot at the lengthy par-3 eighth to 12 feet. With some break from right to left, Woods rolls in the birdie putt with plenty of pace to spare. He moves back within two of the lead.

Through No. 8: 6 under (3 under on the day)

Hole No. 7: Par 4, 446 yards

Woods hits his tee ball straight at the par-4 7th, unfortunately it runs into the rough and rock patch in the center of the fairway. From a deep lie, he gets the ball out, but leaves it short of the green in the thick rough.

Attempting to get up-and-down for par, Tiger leaves his third shot 10 feet short of the hole and he pours in the right-to-left par putt.

Through No. 7: 5 under (2 under on the day)

Hole No. 6: Par 4, 422 yards

From 136 yards out, Woods puts his second shot hole-high and 30 feet right of the pin at the par-4 sixth. He's misses the putt to the right and leaves himself 4 feet. He lips out the par putt and has a putt of similar length coming back for bogey, which he makes to move to 5 under.

Choi sneaks in a 7-foot birdie putt to move to 8 under and suddenly, it's a three-shot lead.

Meanwhile, Zach Johnson is making the biggest move of the day, tapping in at the par-5 11th for his sixth consecutive birdie. He's tied for second with Woods at 5 under.

Through No. 6: 5 under (2 under on the day)

Hole No. 5: Par 5, 531 yards

Tiger hits his drive well left at the par-5 fifth and has to reload with a provisional.

He finds his tee shot, but is forced to chip out into the fifth fairway. Faced with an uphill 257-yard shot into the green, Woods hits a 3-wood to 4 feet and gives himself another great look at birdie.

Spoke too soon. . . He misses the putt and makes par at the fifth, remaining one shot behind Choi.

Through No. 5: 6 under (3 under on the day)

Hole No. 4: Par 4, 456 yards

Tiger isn't able to convert a 30-foot birdie at the fourth, leaving some work for his par. Meanwhile, his playing partner and fellow leader K.J. Choi drops a 50-footer for birdie to regain the lead. Woods makes the come-backer and now trails Choi by a shot.

Through No. 4: 6 under (3 under on the day)

Hole No. 3: Par 3, 198 yards

Woods drops another birdie at the par-3 third, this time sinking a putt from inside 15 feet. He's now tied for the lead with K.J. Choi at 6 under.

Through No. 3: 6 under (3 under on the day)

Hole No. 2: Par 5, 531 yards

From a tough lie (ball below his feet) Tiger Woods hit his second shot to five feet at the par-5 second – a high cutting 5-iron from 208 yards. He rolls in his first eagle of the tournament to move to 5 under, one shot behind Choi, who made par.

Stricker makes birdie at the second to move to 4-under, two shots behind Choi.

Through No. 2: 5 under (2 under on the day)

Hole No. 1: Par 4, 342 yards

Like yesterday, conditions are calm in Thousand Oaks when Tiger tees off – 64 degrees and little to no wind. Forecasts call for more windy conditions later in the day, however.

At the 342-yard opening hole, where Tiger rolled in an 8-foot birdie in the first round, he starts his day with a par, as do Choi and Stricker, who is also tied for second.

Through No. 1: 3 under (even on the day)


Here's the hole-by-hole account of Thursday's opening round

Read about Woods and Choi's last round together, Saturday at the 2011 Masters

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