Graeme McDowell called it a clinic, and he was quite accurate.
Tiger Woods made 10 birdies, hit every green and found all but one fairway en route to a 10-under 62 Friday at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge.
The score not only gave Woods a two-shot lead over Zach Johnson at 11 under, but it also tied the Sherwood Country Club course record set by Woods in the second round of the 2007 event, which Woods won by a record seven shots.
Woods was dialed in with every club on Friday as he gave himself a look at birdie on every hole. Some of them were great looks, including at the par-4 first hole, where Woods stuck his approach shot to 2 feet and made the putt.
But it wasn’t until the third that he found the swing he was looking for.
“It was the first swing I think I made, even during warm-up, that felt really good,” Woods said. “And I tried to keep that feeling the rest of the day, and I did. I hit a lot of good shots after that.”
He had birdie putts of 6 feet or less on eight more holes, making seven of them.
“I left myself in some good spots on the greens with approach shots and that was key,” Woods said. “My putts really weren’t that difficult to make.”
The greens were faster than he’d anticipated, not that it posed much of a problem.
“I don’t think I’ve seen them quite this fast unless we get Santa Ana’s blowing when it’s dry,” Woods said. “I mean, this is the last tournament of the year for a lot of us. I’d think they’d make it a little easier on us. But they gave it to us pretty good the last couple days. You miss the ball in the wrong spots, you’re making bogeys.”
A five-time winner of this event, Woods is also the tournament host. He announced that the tournament will move from Thousand Oaks, Calif. – its home of 15 years – to Isleworth Country Club in Windermere, Fla., in 2014.
Plenty of weeks, 67-68 will earn the lead after two rounds of a tournament. Yet first-round leader Johnson finds himself trailing after doing just that – yet still one ahead of Matt Kuchar and helping set up a potential three-man weekend shootout.
Johnson started out hot with three birdies in his first five holes, then ran off 12 straight pars as Woods passed him. A birdie at the 18th narrowed the margin.
Kuchar also shot 68, in eerily similar fashion: Birdies on five of his first six holes, including matching Johnson’s feat of starting with two out of the gate. Kuchar birdied the 11th and bogeyed the 12th before gaining his last stroke against par with a birdie at the 16th. He was left impressed with Woods, who at the Presidents Cup partnered with Kuchar in formidable form.
“Amazing what Tiger did out there. It’s just some incredible golf,” Kuchar said. “I kind of felt sorry for Graeme McDowell. I saw he posted a 5-under-par round, and it must have felt like it was 2 or 3 over. It’s tough when you’re paired with a guy like that. It makes you feel like you’re not doing much. But the rest of us just go about our business.”
Which, in fact, is exactly what G-Mac did.
“I enjoyed that,” he said. “It was cool to see that kind of golf. He was under control. He hit it down the middle of every fairway. He didn’t have that kind of violence with his speed through the ball.”
McDowell’s 67 Friday moved him to fourth after an opening 72, but he’ll need more strong play if he is to recover from six off the lead and three back of Kuchar at the tournament’s midpoint.
Bubba Watson nearly holed out at the par-5 fifth for double eagle en route to his second straight 70, which leaves him fifth at 4 under. Jim Furyk and Bill Haas are T-6, another shot back.
– Associated Press contributed.