Resilient Tiger Woods in the hunt at Honda Classic entering weekend

PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Tiger Woods plays a shot on the 18th hole during the second round of The Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa on February 23, 2018 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Resilient Tiger Woods in the hunt at Honda Classic entering weekend

PGA Tour

Resilient Tiger Woods in the hunt at Honda Classic entering weekend

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – If this is what we can come to expect from Tiger Woods most weeks, it’s going to be a wild ride. 

Whereas Thursday’s Round 1 was a steady display of ballstriking and patience, Friday’s Round 2 of 1-over 71 was vintage Woods, new Woods and adjusting Woods all wrapped into one.

There was a little something for everyone and when it was done Woods sat T-14 at 1 over 141 to safely make the cut at a Honda Classic that’s beginning to resemble a U.S. Open back when the U.S. Open was tough test every year.

“I think I’m four back as of right now,” said Woods, who tees off at 12:10 p.m. ET Saturday alongside Jason Dufner. “So, I’m right there in the ballgame.”

The ballgame swung most dramatically at “The Bear Trap,” a challenging three-hole stretch which Woods entered at 1 under on the round through 14.

His tee shot at the par-3 15th came up well short, landed in the water and the groans from surrounding fans intent on willing Woods to his first under-par round of the year were loud and audible. He made double-bogey 5. Woods made another bogey at No. 16 to move to 2 over on the round entering the toughest hole on the course, the 182-yard, par-3 17th.

Woods put his approach shot to 12 feet, but he still looked displeased having just dropped three shots in two holes. 

He made the birdie putt amid a wild scene that didn’t quite resemble the Waste Management Phoenix Open but came close, one of just nine birdies there all day.

Woods was between clubs on the tee and didn’t want to come up short, so he went with more club and fell back on a shot that has served him extremely well this week through 36 holes.

“When I got up on the tee, the wind laid down,” Woods said. “I’m like, well, 5-iron is too much but I can’t get 6-iron there. So that’s one of the reasons why I started that thing pretty far left and hit a pretty big cut in there, because I just had too much stick. Worked out great.”

Fans swarmed throughout the afternoon and when Woods made birdie at No. 9 on one of the most-heavily populated areas at PGA National, the full-blown Tiger gallery was ready to follow on the back nine.

Viewed in a bubble, Woods’ rounds have been up and down.  There have been moments of opportunity wasted and some very grind-out pars, like the one at 11 Friday in which he laid up from the right rough and left himself a 12-footer for par. Woods drained it and even threw in a vintage fist-pump for good measure, which sent everyone into a frenzy.

Let’s step back and look at the big picture, though. Woods has been off for nearly a full year, with 12 competitive starts under his belt since last February, and he’s performed so much better than the majority of the field this week.

He’s three shots ahead of Rory McIlroy, who is T-49 at 4 over. He was six shots better than defending champion Rickie Fowler, who missed the cut at 7 over. And he was a combined 18 shots better than his playing partners, with Brandt Snedeker shooting 7 over and two-time Tour winner Patton Kizzire finishing 12 over.

Thing is, we analyze the heck out of Woods’ every movement on the golf course and there’s plenty of room for criticism when that happens.  But so far this week Woods is fourth in the field in average driving distance, ninth in scrambling and 16th in strokes gained: putting.

Asked if the juices started flowing when he saw his name near the top of the leaderboard, Woods simply said, “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Only this time he wasn’t talking about his swing flaws or recovering from a fourth back surgery, a big-picture look at the Tiger brand. He meant he’s got a long way to go to win the tournament, which is starting to look like a real possibility either this week or in the sooner-than-expected future.



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