DORAL, Fla. – Tiger Woods shot a 5-under 67 on Friday at Doral, a stress-free round that included three birdies on the par 5s and no par putt longer than 4 feet. It looked clean, hopeful, effortless – but Woods actually lost ground on the leaders at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
That’s what happens when the two men in front, Bubba Watson (62) and Justin Rose (64), post the lowest rounds of the week on the TPC Blue Monster. And that’s what happens when Woods shot even par in Round 1 to fall off the early pace.
“It could have been really low today,” Woods said afterward. Better believe it: There were several birdie putts that burned the edge or lipped out, two short wedge shots that were average, if not downright poor. Now, the only way to stay in contention this weekend is to go “really low” in conditions that may not be as favorable as what we saw Friday (15-mph winds, partly cloudy skies). At 5-under 139, he is tied for 15th place, seven strokes behind Watson.
Beginning his round on the back nine at Doral, Woods birdied two of the first three holes – both par 5s – but failed to capitalize, once again, on the 372-yard 16th hole. (From 60 yards, he couldn’t hit his approach inside 15 feet.) Nonetheless, it was an encouraging opening nine, during which he missed only one fairway and two greens (by inches).
Woods’ second nine began auspiciously, too, with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 first. But on No. 2, and with just 57 yards for his second shot, he flubbed his pitch into the greenside bunker, managing to save par but also to squander an easy opportunity. Woods birdied Nos. 4 and 5 after stellar approach shots, then couldn’t convert 15-foot birdie putts on each of his last four holes.
His statistics Friday validated the work he did with coach Sean Foley after the opening round: nine fairways, 14 greens, 28 putts. More significant: He averaged 24 feet from the hole on his approach shots, nearly 17 feet better than in Round 1.
“This is the highest score I could have shot today, for sure,” said Woods, in search of his first official PGA Tour victory since September 2009. “I hit pure putts, right on my line, but they were just lipping out.”
Woods is paired with good friend Steve Stricker for Saturday’s third round. They tee off at 12:25 p.m. EDT.
– Ryan Lavner
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Tiger’s 18th hole: No. 9, Par 3, 169 yards
Tiger plays a wonderful shot into the par-3 9th hole, landing it on the front edge and the ball runs out to about 18 feet left of the flag.
He just misses the birdie putt on the left and settles for a nice par. Tiger cards a bogey-free, 5-under 67 to stay within striking distance of the leaders.
Tiger on the day: 5 under (round finished; 5 under for tournament)
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Tiger’s 17th hole: No. 8, Par 5, 560 yards
Tiger is a bit late on his swing with the driver and pushes it right at the reachable par 5. He will have to scramble a bit to avoid missing this prime opportunity.
Tiger lands on the grassy edge of a fairway bunker on the right and will not be able to go after the green in two. From an awkward stance, he simply moves the ball forward, leaving himself about 150 yards into the wind for his third shot.
Tiger gives himself a shot at birdie, sending his third shot pin-high and about 15 feet to the left.
With about two feet of break, Tiger gives it a nice run, but it skirts over the left edge and he picks up a par.
Tiger on the day: 5 under (thru 17 holes; 5 under for tournament)
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Tiger’s 16th hole: No. 7, Par 4, 454 yards
Tiger hammers another drive, this one going up the left side about 335 yards, settling in the rough.
From the rough, Tiger is able to get the ball to stop on the green, about 14 feet above the hole.
The birdie putt has eyes for the hole, but a hard lipout leaves Tiger with another par. Now he heads to the final par 5 of the day.
Tiger on the day: 5 under (thru 16 holes; 5 under for tournament)
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Tiger’s 15th hole: No. 6, Par 4, 442 yards
Tiger puts another ball into the fairway, this time sending it up the right side and he’ll have about 140 yards to the flag.
Tiger puts it safely on the green, about 21 feet under the hole and he’ll have a good look at a third-straight birdie.
He leaves the birdie putt one revolution short and settles for a par.
Tiger on the day: 5 under (thru 15 holes; 5 under for tournament)
• Elsewhere on the course: Justin Rose polishes off an 8-under 64 to head into the clubhouse at 11 under. Moments later, Bubba Watson finishes his 10-under 62 to vault him to 12 under and a one-shot lead.
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Tiger’s 14th hole: No. 5, Par 4, 382 yards
Tiger uses iron off the tee and stripes it into the middle of the fairway.
He goes pin-seeking with his second shot and lands pin-high and about six feet to the right, where he’ll have a look at a second-straight birdie.
He puts the birdie putt in the heart of the cup to pick up another birdie. On Thursday, he had bogeys on both Nos. 4 and 5. Today, he birdies both of them.
Tiger on the day: 5 under (thru 14 holes; 5 under for tournament)
• Elsewhere on the course: Bubba Watson is now 10 under on his round (with one hole to play) and holds a one-shot advantage over Justin Rose. With a birdie at No. 9, Watson would tie the course record of 11-under 61.
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Tiger’s 13th hole: No. 4, Par 3, 236 yards
Tiger made bogey here on Thursday, but takes a risk and fires at the flag on the left and is rewarded with a 17-foot birdie attempt from under the hole.
And Tiger rattles the birdie putt home, taking a ride around the lip before sitting down in the cup. It was his first birdie on a non-par 5 for the tournament.
Tiger on the day: 4 under (thru 13 holes; 4 under for tournament)
• Elsewhere on the course: Both Justin Rose and Bubba Watson are 8 under on their rounds, with Rose holding a one-shot lead.
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Tiger’s 12th hole: No. 3, Par 4, 438 yards
Tiger is getting some major distance off the tee, this time running it up the left side of the fairway and into the first cut of rough. He avoids the disastrous water on the right and should have a good look at the green.
Tiger plays his approach shot past the hole and settles just off the green. He’ll be able to putt or chip for birdie from about 30 feet.
He chooses to chip and slides it under the hole to about three feet for par. He makes it to stay bogey-free on the day.
Tiger on the day: 3 under (thru 12 holes; 3 under for tournament)
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Tiger’s 11th hole: No. 2, Par 4, 419 yards
Tiger pulls driver again and smokes it up the left side of the fairway, coming to rest in the intermediate cut of rough. He’ll have bunkers to flirt with if he attacks the flag with this second shot.
With the 342-yard drive, Tiger only has a little less than 60 yards left to the hole. But he plays a horrible second shot, hitting a flub into the front bunker and he’ll now need to get up-and-down to avoid his first bogey of the day.
Tiger plays a beautiful bunker shot to about three feet, yelling at it to bite and it obliges. He drains the putt to save par.
Tiger on the day: 3 under (thru 11 holes; 3 under for the tournament)
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Tiger’s 10th hole: No. 1, Par 5, 529 yards
Tiger eagled the first hole on Thursday and absolutely pummels his tee ball into the middle of the fairway to give himself a good look at doing it again.
Using iron with his second shot, he lands it pin-high and about 20 feet left of the hole, giving himself another shot at eagle.
He misses the eagle putt, but taps in for a birdie to continue with his dominance of the par 5s. He is 7 under on par 5s for the tournament.
Tiger on the day: 3 under (thru 10 holes; 3 under for tournament)
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Tiger’s ninth hole: No. 18, Par 4, 467 yards
Playing as the toughest hole on the course – the hole scoring average is 4.735 – Tiger calmly smokes a drive down the middle of the fairway. Less than 20 percent of players have hit this green in regulation today.
With water lining the left side of the green, Tiger plays his second shot well out to the right and comes to rest pin-high and about 30 feet away.
A great, slippery lag putt gives Tiger a tap-in par to cap off a stress-free first nine holes, where Tiger birdied both par 5s and avoided trouble. Tiger missed only one fairway and two greens, both of which were by inches.
Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 9 holes; 2 under for tournament)
• Elsewhere on the course: Justin Rose is on fire, now moving to 10 under (7 under on his round thru 11 holes). Bubba Watson is trying to keep pace, moving to 9 under and is also 7 under thru 11 holes on Friday.
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Tiger’s eighth hole: No. 17, Par 4, 419 yards
Using driver, Tiger leaves himself about 125 yards to the par 4 after a deep tee ball to the right side of the fairway.
The pin is on the extreme front and Tiger takes a big divot and lands about five feet under the hole for birdie. Tiger snaps at a photographer that took a picture during his backswing, which is frowned upon on Tour.
But Tiger can’t take advantage of the great second shot, missing the birdie putt and settling for another par.
Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 8 holes; 2 under for the tournament)
• Elsewhere on the course: Justin Rose still has a one-shot lead after moving to 9 under with a birdie at the par-5 1st hole. Bubba Watson is one shot behind.
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Tiger’s seventh hole: No. 16, Par 4, 372 yards
“Can you duck please?” Yes, Tiger asked the gallery to do this as he moves them so he can take a shot at the green off the tee. He successfully cuts over the dogleg and has less than 60 yards to the pin. He was in the same position on Thursday, but failed to capitalize.
And Tiger hits a pedestrian approach shot, landing it about 15 feet behind the hole. He misses the putt, settling two revolutions to the left of the hole. Another missed opportunity for Tiger on the short par 4.
Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 7 holes; 2 under for tournament)
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Tiger’s sixth hole: No. 15, Par 3, 175 yards
A very accessible pin location, but Tiger comes up about a half-club short and has about 26 feet uphill for birdie.
Tiger thought his birdie putt was headed for the bottom of the cup, but it just slides by and he picks up an easy par.
Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 6 holes; 2 under for tournament)
• Elsewhere on the course: Justin Rose has taken the outright lead, picking up a birdie at No. 17 to move to 8 under. Rose is 5 under on his round thru eight holes. Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy is now in the red, picking up an eagle on his first hole (the par-5 1st) and then a birdie at No. 2 to move to 2 under.
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Tiger’s fifth hole: No. 14, Par 4, 460 yards
Tiger rips another 2-iron down the fairway and will be set up well for his approach shot.
With the wind gusting to the right and the pin tucked on the left, Tiger has his work cut out trying to get it close. From 170 yards, Tiger flies it past the hole and onto the back of the green, where he’ll have around 28 feet downhill for birdie.
Tiger hits a nice lag and settles for a two-putt par.
Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 5 holes; 2 under for tournament)
• Elsewhere on the course: Gary Woodland is 3 under on his round to move to 4 under, three shots back of leaders Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Bubba Watson. Watson has the low round of the day going, with the southpaw bomber 5 under thru 7 holes. Y.E. Yang is 4 under on his round (thru 8 holes) to move to 4 under for the tournament.
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Tiger’s fourth hole: No. 13, Par 3, 245 yards
On the brutally long par 3, Tiger is safely on the green and will have more than 45 feet on his birdie attempt. His lag putts were an issue on Thursday, so that will be a focus on this putt.
Tiger makes a run at the hole with his birdie attempt, but misses and it runs four feet past. He makes the comebacker for par.
Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 4 holes; 2 under for tournament)
• Elsewhere on the course: Adam Scott is back in the lead at 7 under, while overnight co-leader Jason Dufner just went bogey-double bogey to drop to 4 under.
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Tiger’s third hole: No. 12, Par 5, 603 yards
Tiger pulls driver and yanks it left and into the rough and will have no choice but to lay up at the longest hole on the course. He calls “Fore!” as it goes left, but he should be familiar with this position, as he still picked up birdie here despite going into the rough on Thursday.
The tee ball settles on a sidehill lie and Tiger has to take wedge to clear a row of palm trees, but is still in good position for his third shot.
Tiger hits the green in regulation, leaving himself about 23 feet for a birdie attempt.
He drains the lengthy putt to pick up another birdie at a par 5, reading the left-to-right slider to perfection. He is 6 under on the par 5s this week.
Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 3 holes; 2 under for tournament)
• Elsewhere on the course: Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Jason Dufner, Adam Scott and Justin Rose are tied atop the leaderboard at 6 under.
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Tiger’s second hole: No. 11, Par 4, 402 yards
Tiger takes iron off the tee and hits a low-liner that screams toward the set of bunkers that split the fairway. He comes up short of them, but will have to contend with a couple of overhanging palm trees on his 165-yard shot into the green.
The wind is also picking up and the low scores we are seeing early could disappear.
Tiger hits a nice approach shot, leaving himself about 20 feet for birdie to the right of the flag.
Tiger’s birdie attempt slides by on the left, but picks up an easy par.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 2 holes; 1 under for tournament)
• Elsewhere on the course: Jason Dufner has moved to 7 under after a birdie at the par-5 1st hole, one shot ahead of Adam Scott (who has not teed off yet). Meanwhile, Justin Rose is making a big move early, going 3 under on his first three holes – he started on the back nine – to sit at 6 under for the tournament.
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Tiger’s first hole: No. 10, Par 5, 551 yards
With partly cloudy skies and mild wind at about 10 mph, Tiger starts the day with another par 5. He was 4 under on the par 5s on Thursday.
Wearing a blue shirt and gray slacks, Tiger takes iron off the tee and finds the fairway down the right side. The wind is aiding the players off the 10th tee, so many don’t have to pull driver to give themselves a chance at the green in two.
Tiger does wait for the group ahead to clear the green, despite water lining the hole all the way down the left and in front, with bunkers to the right.
After watching Watney go into the water, Tiger drills a long iron to just in front of the green and will have a chip for eagle.
Tiger hits a beautiful chip to tap-in range and he starts hot for the second straight day, picking up an early birdie
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 1 hole; 1 under for tournament)
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Round 1 recap: Tiger Woods fires a 72
Tiger Woods couldn’t come up with enough birdies for a low first round at Doral on Thursday, but still showed streaks of brilliance. First-round recap
• • •
Well-rested Scott vaults into lead
After playing only five competitive rounds since November, Adam Scott showed no signs of rust Thursday at Doral, tying Jason Dufner for the first-round lead. Jeff Rude
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Wind wreaking havoc at Doral
One player hit the par-5 first in two shots with an 8-iron Thursday. To reach the par-4 18th in two, he needed a hybrid. The wind giveth and taketh away at Doral. Jim McCabe
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Lyle has leukemia recurrence
Jarrod Lyle has had a recurrence of leukemia at home in Australia, just as the 30-year-old is preparing to become a father for the first time. Story.
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A new week for Tiger
Sure Tiger Woods’ final-round 62 at last week’s was brilliant, but the thing is, it happened last week. It was something Woods was quick to point out Wednesday at Doral. Story.
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Consistency at the top
Add Rory McIlroy to the world’s best, and the game’s upper rung suddenly gets a lot more interesting. With the Masters drawing near, Jeff Rude explains why that’s good for the game. Story.
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Big task ahead
Donald Trump will signal a start to the WGC-Cadillac Championship with a press conference to discuss his purchase of the host venue this week, Doral Golf Resort & Spa. Gil Hanse, chosen course designer of the 2016 Rio Olympics course, will revamp the Blue Monster course at Doral. Story.
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Notes: Casey back on the course
Paul Casey already has missed five tournaments this year after dislocating his right shoulder while snowboarding over the holidays. It’s a bad time for an injury, especially in a Ryder Cup year, though Casey has a good reason to feel optimistic. Story.
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Notes: Oosthuizen will play, but not pain-free
Two days after withdrawing from the final round of the Honda Classic, Louis Oosthuizen was back at work at Doral’s TPC Blue Monster, determined to give it a go at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Story.
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The decision to hire Gil Hanse to design the 2016 Olympics golf course represents a powerful endorsement of a post-modern, links-inspired orientation to golf at the highest level of international competition. Story.