Tiger Woods in the hunt sets up another wild weekend at Quicken Loans National

POTOMAC, MD - JUNE 29: Tiger Woods smiles on the sixth hole green during the second round of the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm on June 29, 2018 in Potomac, Maryland. (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR) Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR

Tiger Woods in the hunt sets up another wild weekend at Quicken Loans National

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods in the hunt sets up another wild weekend at Quicken Loans National

POTOMAC, Md. – Tiger Woods is in the hunt again.

He worked his way into contention with a 5-under 65 Friday in Round 2 of the Quicken Loans National and hasn’t been in this good a spot after 36 holes in more than three months.

In other words, it’s gonna be a wild weekend at TPC Potomac.

“I’m not that far back,” Woods said. “I’m in a similar position to where I was at Valspar. The scores aren’t going to be that low and it’s going to be a tough weekend. It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be long grinds. It will be hotter than now, which is scary. It will be over 100 degrees and it will be a long weekend, mentally and physically.”

Woods finally got it going on the greens Friday morning and posted seven birdies. It flipped the script at this tournament, which took on the feel of a big time sporting event rather than just a fun, casual hangout for fans.

He started the round at No. 10, where he rolled in a 23-foot birdie putt to get a bit of a spark going around 8:30 a.m.

Two hours later he pulled out his 60 degree wedge and chipped in for birdie at No. 18 and then it was really on. A few holes on the front nine were pretty lonely Thursday afternoon, but they were packed and loud again with Woods charging and building on the momentum.

“Easy to say now, but I said to myself on 18, maybe that’s something we need to get going,” caddie Joe LaCava said.

Woods didn’t really miss a shot over the next seven holes. He birdied the 619-yard, par-5 second thanks to his best strike of the day, a 280-yard 3 wood approach into the green.

On the tee at the par-3 third, a marshal who seemed to be talking to himself said that no one had birdied the 225-yard hole all morning. Woods hit a safe approach to the center of the green and drained a 25-footer for his third birdie in four holes.

Tiger Woods had his groove on Friday. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

Going to a new TaylorMade mallet putter this week didn’t seem to solve any of Woods’ issues Thursday, but he said there was a big difference. Friday we actually saw it.

“I felt great yesterday,” Woods said. “I hit a lot of good putts that were starting on line and with the right speed and I was able to start seeing my line, which is nice. Just continue with it. I wasn’t disappointed with the way I putted yesterday and this is just a continuation of it. Today, the same thing. I felt like I could see the lines, ball starting on my line and they went in.”

Woods still has a long grind ahead of him in order to contend on the back nine Sunday. He made a few mistakes early, with a pair of bogeys on the front nine, and he missed some makeable birdie putts. His swing was good enough to shoot 62 or 63, but it could have gone the other direction on him late.

“I’ve just got to keep pushing, keep trying to make birdies,” Woods said. “Keep trying to go low. These guys, they don’t just hang around par. You’ve got to keep pushing it and I didn’t.”

The biggest difference from earlier this year is that Woods keeps giving himself chances to go low. He hit 10 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens in Round 2. Didn’t have to do much scrambling. Left himself with plenty of tap-in pars.

With Woods, anything seems possible as long as he’s in the fairway more often than not.

“I’m always thinking birdie on every hole with him, cause he’s capable of making birdie from anywhere,” LaCava said. “If he’s driving it well he’s going to give himself opportunities, for sure.”

This week he has another opportunity to win for the first time since 2013. He was T-11 and four shots off the lead Friday afternoon, closer than he was going into the weekend at Bay Hill before a T-5 finish. There’s enough accessible nitpicking to keep the naysayers busy, but there’s a bigger bottom line here.

“I think I’m not that far away from putting it together where I can win,” Woods said.

Nothing in golf compares to a weekend with Woods in contention. His mere presence creates a frenzied atmosphere, and it goes to another level when he’s playing well. A level we’ll probably never see again once he actually calls it quits for good. It seems like this comeback is built for the long haul, as far as 42-year-old comeback tours go, but it won’t last forever.

So much of Woods’ story is about the past and an uncertain future. Then there are days like Friday when past and future converge and all that matters is watching it unfold in real time.

“We’re in the hunt,” LaCava said. “That’s all you can ask for, right?”

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