Tiger Woods 7 shots back after 'hard fight' in Round 2 at Bay Hill

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Tiger Woods 7 shots back after 'hard fight' in Round 2 at Bay Hill

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods 7 shots back after 'hard fight' in Round 2 at Bay Hill

ORLANDO – Tiger Woods’ second round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational lacked the buzz and energy we’ve come to expect every time he tees it up these days.

Maybe it was the opening bogey, or the fact that he began his day seven shots off the lead. Maybe expectations were too high after a T-2 finish at the Valspar Championship and an opening-round 68 at Bay Hill.

Or, maybe it was the fact that Woods just couldn’t generate any type of spark while grinding out an even-par 72 in the second round Friday.

“Today was a hard fight,” Woods said. “I didn’t hit the ball close, I didn’t hit the ball well, but I was just hanging in there and just trying not to shoot myself out of the tournament. Just keep myself in the tournament. I thought something in the red would be great and I just wasn’t quite able to do it, but came close.”

The fans were numerous but relatively tame. Even during similar rounds at the Honda Classic and Valspar Championship, the vibe bordered on raucous. He’s still the biggest show in town by far, but it’s almost as if the novelty of simply seeing Woods on a golf course again is beginning to wear off. He gave everyone a glimpse of what could be at the Valspar, but it’s unlikely he’ll be in one of the final two pairings come Sunday.

Woods is now T-17 at 4 under for the tournament, seven shots back of co-leaders Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau. He made his first birdie of the day at the par-5 12th and also birdied the par-5 16th from a tough spot well right of the fairway.

Woods was in the rough 191 yards out and had a long talk with caddie Joe LaCava before pulling the trigger. He had 6-iron in his hand and decided to go with a 5-iron instead, figuring if he didn’t hit 6 perfectly the ball would end up in the water hazard which runs in front of the green.

He swung as hard as he could and gave a short, subtle fist pump when the ball landed safely just right of the green. Asked how difficult the shot was, Woods just laughed.

“The fact that Joey asked me, ‘Do you want any layup numbers,’ pretty much said it all right there,” Woods said.

Woods wasn’t going to lay up, but he has remained extremely patient during rounds like this. He continues to play the smart shots and hasn’t tried to force the issue when experiencing a lull. Whatever his timeline is for this comeback, whichever process he has committed to, he’s not straying from it.

“As long as I can just keep chipping away at it, keep working my way up the board,” Woods said. “Last week I didn’t really know the golf course as well as I would like and so I was a little bit on the more conservative side. This one I know, but I wasn’t sharp. And so again, I haven’t made a lot of bogeys in the last week and a half, but I haven’t made a lot of birdies either. I haven’t hit the ball close enough to make a lot of birdies. So, I’ve got to do a better job of that this weekend in order to run down these guys.”

Woods won the 2005 Masters after trailing by six shots through 36 holes, but it took a 7-under 65 in Round 3 to get the job done. It doesn’t seem like a similar round is in the cards this week. He can score when his game isn’t sharp like no one else ever has, but the accuracy issues off the tee and some spotty wedge play Friday don’t lend themselves to super low rounds.

He’s stuck to his game plan even when the thousands of fans are practically begging him to go pin hunting and roll the dice on a potential birdie run.

They’re still happy to see him and take pictures. So many pictures. The amount of blurry, photographic evidence of Woods floating somewhere up in the iCloud is unfathomable. Woods is able to block it all out and stick to the script, even on days like Friday when the end result leaves everyone wanting more.

It doesn’t hurt that he’s done this for so long.

“I’ve been playing tournament golf now – What am I, 42? So I’ve been playing tournament golf for 38 years,” Woods said.

Graeme McDowell said Thursday that he believes Woods is able to go to a place mentally that other PGA Tour players simply can’t get to. On Friday, Woods said it isn’t some magical ability, something he can turn off and on. It’s just an accumulation of everything.

“I think it’s the fact that I’ve played under the gun so many times out here,” Woods said. “I’ve won so many tournaments that I’ve experienced so many different things, so many different ways of winning, and I think I’m comfortable with that. I’m comfortable about being in a lot of different scenarios because I pulled off a lot of wins under so many different scenarios.”

A ninth career win at Bay Hill might be his most improbable yet, but the fans will be out in droves Saturday when he tees off with Justin Rose at 12:15 p.m. Eastern, hoping to see birdies and a chase. Now just five starts into the season, anything less might seem like a disappointment.

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