Tiger Woods fires 4-under 68 to move into contention at Hero World Challenge

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Tiger Woods fires 4-under 68 to move into contention at Hero World Challenge

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods fires 4-under 68 to move into contention at Hero World Challenge

There are likely plenty of believers now.

Tiger Woods set the golf world ablaze Friday, firing a 4-under 68 to storm into contention at the Hero World Challenge. The 41-year-old enters the weekend at 7 under and five off the pace (set by Charley Hoffman), but he led outright at times Friday. In his first competitive start in 10 months, Woods simply had golf fans going bonkers as he rose to the top at points in the second round and put himself in position to win this weekend.

Is the 14-time major champion back? Well, he’s significantly on his way.

Woods brought the electricity from the beginning Friday, as he opened his second round at Albany Golf Club by pounding a 335-yard drive down the fairway, stuffing a wedge to 5 feet and rolling in the putt for a kick-off birdie.

Another ensued at the par-5 third after he buried an 8-footer. Woods then knocked one stiff to 4 feet at the par-4 fourth and had that to tie the lead. Predictably he rolled the putt right in for three birdies in four holes, 6 under and a spot at the top.

But Woods was far from finished.

After lipping out a birdie putt for the outright lead at No. 5, he made three consecutive par saves to keep the momentum. His short-game woes from Thursday were most tested with a delicate short-sided chip at the par-3 eighth, but he nestled that beautifully within a few feet to save par.

Then came the seminal moment.

Woods found the fairway at No. 9 and hit a towering fairway wood from 271 yards some 20 feet past the cup. A day after making a sloppy bogey at the par 5, he now had an eagle putt for the outright lead.

He drained it.

Woods, now 8 under after going out in 31, sent the golf world into a frenzy with that development and he followed up shortly. A near chip-in for eagle at the 11th led to a tap-in birdie to move Woods to 9 under and back into the solo lead after a Charley Hoffman birdie.

But the rest of the round was more subdued. Woods was 6 under for the day as he approached a 25-footer for birdie at the par-3 12th, but he rammed that 10 feet by and missed the comebacker for his first bogey of the day. A few missed birdie opportunities ensued (including another putt raced by at least 10 feet at 15) and Woods would make five straight pars.

After an errant drive at the par-4 18th that ended up in a bad lie in waste area sand, Woods could only blast out and close with a bogey to fall to that 4-under 68 after being 6 under through 11 holes.

Maybe the momentum stalled late, but this was still a tremendous day from Woods – who finished the round hitting nine of 13 fairways, 13 of 18 greens and taking 27 putts.

He held the outright lead or a share of it multiple times and appeared to be much of his former self in sending the golf world into a tizzy over his strong play.

There were booming drives, crisp irons, clutch putts and Woods’ classic ability to grind when his game faltered at times during play.

Most promising may’ve been that strong performance around the greens. A day after two stubbed chips marred an otherwise strong 3-under 69, Woods seemed to have much better command with these shots.

Deft touch at Nos. 7, 8 and 11 proved as much, but his most electric short-game moment came when he executed to perfection while chipping on the green at the par-3 17th. He would save par.

Along with the chipping turnaround, Woods’ driving looks fantastic and everything seems to indicate he is healthy and has so much left in the tank. And we can never reiterate this enough: This is Woods’ first competitive start in 10 months! Against a world-class field, no less.

Woods is not in the lead like we may’ve thought halfway through the round. But through 36 holes, this return could not have gone much better.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home