ATLANTA – One day after sharing the best score of Round 1, Tiger Woods posted a second-round effort that was better than only two of the 30 players at the Tour Championship.
We’ll let Greg Norman determine whether or not Woods (five bogeys, one double, a sloppy 3-over 73) was intimidated by playing competitor Justin Rose (a tidy 68), but there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that he was sickened by his performance.
“Didn’t play very good. Didn’t hit it very good. Definitely didn’t putt well. It was a struggle all day,” Woods said when asked how he had gone from a share of first place to joint 12th, now sitting six off of Jim Furyk’s 7-under lead.
How stunning was Woods’ reversal? In 29 previous rounds at East Lake Golf Club, he had been 47 under, with sub-par efforts 21 times. He was over par for just the sixth time, and 73 is his worst score here since opening the 1998 Tour Championship – the debut at East Lake – 75-76.
Whereas he hit 10 fairways and 13 greens Thursday, Woods went for eight and 11, respectively, in Round 2. And the putting? Well, he required just 26 in Round 1, as opposed to 32 Friday.
“Golf,” he said.
If he were feeling miserable, he was far from turning his thoughts to next week’s Ryder Cup. Six back, “I’m still right there,” he insisted, and when he suggested what needs to be done, it was simple.
“You’ve got to get the ball on the fairway. This Bermuda rough is thin enough where every ball is sitting at the bottom,” Woods said. “It just won’t sit up.”
Though he did make bogeys after driving it in the fairway at the first and 12th, Woods clearly was undone by wildness off the tee. At the eighth, a hole that played to a field average of 3.967, Woods was wide left and left in rough on the slope above a bunker. With the ball well above his feet, he failed to hit a 140-yard shot on line, leaving it wide right and well short, from where he proceeded to hit a poor wedge. Double bogey.
Still, he was just four behind when Woods limped home. At the demanding 16th, he pulled his tee shot well left and was blocked by a tree. Bogey No. 5.
One hole later, he continued his Army golf – you know, left, right, left – and sprayed his tee shot up close to the grandstands down the right side. It led to his sixth and final bogey and pretty much delayed his dinner plans.
“I’m going to hit some balls and putt for a while,” he said. “I figured something out on the back nine with my (putting) stroke, which was good. But I still need to hit the ball better than I did today, for sure.”
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QUIET, BUT EFFECTIVE: Few players generate less attention than Bo Van Pelt. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find many players who have piled up more solid tournaments than the quiet man from Oklahoma State.
He thinks he knows the secret, too.
“I’ve had the same coach for 12 years, same caddie for seven,” said Van Pelt, who backed up his opening 67 with a 68 to settle into a share of third, at 5-under 135, two strokes behind Jim Furyk.
“We’ve been working on the same stuff for really the last six or seven years of my golf swing. I think that’s led to my consistency.”
With nine top 10s, Van Pelt shares the PGA Tour lead with Rory McIlroy (for the record, though, McIlroy has played 15 tournaments, Van Pelt 23) and Van Pelt been in the top 25 in all but eight of his starts.
Not that all is perfect, however. Van Pelt rode a bit of a roller coaster Friday, and bogeys on three of his final four holes stung. He thought that he should have gotten more out of a seven-birdie effort, but that’s what happens when you hit just eight of 14 fairways. The Bermuda rough will jump up and bite you.
“The holes I drove it in play, I scored really well,” he said.
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AH, START THE GAME WITHOUT HIM: When he looked at his alma mater’s football schedule, Matt Kuchar was excited to know Georgia Tech would be home the Saturday of the Tour Championship. He then did some wishful thinking, “hoping for an 8 o’clock game,” he said.
Unfortunately, the game against Miami will be at 3 p.m., so that tosses a curveball at Kuchar. Because he’s gone 67-69 to sit at 4 under and tied for fifth, Kuchar will go off at 1:40.
“That will be right in the middle of my play time,” Kuchar said.
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GETTING IN TUNE: All 12 U.S. Ryder Cup players are in this week’s field, with Furyk in the lead, Bubba Watson in a share of third, Dustin Johnson and Kuchar T-5, Zach Johnson T-7 and Brandt Snedeker joint 10th.
Of the five Europeans who’ll tee it up at Medinah CC, only Rose (second) and Rory McIlroy (T-7) are in the top 10.
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GIVE HIM CREDIT. HE IS CONSISTENT: In the past, Bubba Watson has said if East Lake GC were hosting a regular event, he probably wouldn’t sign on. But it’s the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup finale, and so here he is. Almost mandatory. And after playing the back nine in 31 to shoot 66 and get into a share of third, 5 under and just two off the lead, he probably embraces it a little more, eh?
“This golf course and me don’t see eye-to-eye,” Watson said.
Having finished dead last in his Tour Championship debut in 2008, Watson was T-17 in 2010 and T-23 last year, so the left-hander isn’t overflowing with good vibes. Yet he is trying to change his fortunes here.
“Stringing two under-par rounds together is pretty good,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
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SHORT SHOTS: For a second straight day, Justin Rose closed out his round with a birdie at the demanding par-3 18th. He made just one of three in Friday’s second round, a day after making one of six. . . . Toughest hole to birdie? That would be the 214-yard, par-3 second. No one turned the trick. . . . Jim Furyk made the only birdie of the round at the 520-yard, par-4 fifth. . . . The 418-yard, par-4 16th, played toughest, to a field average of 4.30, with a third of the field (10 players) making bogey and Sergio Garcia a double. . . . Ernie Els failed to make a birdie in his round of 75 that leaves him in second-to-last place at 147. Who’s last? That would be Nick Watney, who entered the tournament as one of those in the coveted “top five,” meaning if he were to win the Tour Championship, he would take the FedEx Cup title. But Watney can start making plans for either the fall series or his offseason, because rounds of 75-74 have him 30th, a whopping 16 strokes behind.