Tiger Woods takes outright lead at rain-delayed Zozo Championship

AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

Tiger Woods takes outright lead at rain-delayed Zozo Championship

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods takes outright lead at rain-delayed Zozo Championship

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CHIBA, Japan – Nearly 48 hours after hitting his last shot of the first round – a 6-footer for birdie to cap a 6-under-par 64 for a share of the lead – and a day after getting stuck in a Domino’s Pizza after taking in a showing of Joker, Tiger Woods produced another sterling performance as the headliner in the Zozo Championship.

With birdies on his final two holes and five on his inward nine, Woods posted another 64 Saturday at Accordia Narashino Country Club and grabbed the outright lead at 12 under.

Seeking his record-tying 82nd PGA Tour title, Woods is two clear of Gary Woodland and four clear of Keegan Bradley and Hideki Matsuyama. Playing for the first time in nine weeks and for the first time since undergoing surgery on his left knee, Woods has found no need to shed any rust in his 2019-20 season debut.

“I’m surprised that I’ve been able to score as well as I have, usually that takes a little bit of time,” Woods said of his instant success after time off. “But this golf course is a little bit on the softer side. I’ve been able to strike my irons pretty well this week so far and that’s been nice.

“I left a lot of my approach shots below the hole and I was able to be pretty aggressive, and the greens are a little bit slower than they were yesterday. I had a good feel on the putting green, which was nice. Hit a lot of putts from below the hole and making sure that put a lot of right hand into it and released it and it felt good all day.”

Zozo Championship: Leaderboard | Photos | Third-round tee times
TIGER TRACKER: Woods’ second round in Japan, shot-by-shot

Woods, who is one win shy of tying the record of 82 victories held by Sam Snead, scored from tap-in range on the first hole and added another birdie from 25 feet on the seventh. He made a 3 on the 10th for birdie – because of the storms the hole was shortened to 140 yards but still played as a par 4 on the scorecard.

He canned another birdie from 15 feet on 11 and added yet another from 10 feet on the 13th. He capped his round with a short iron to tap-in range for birdie on the 17th and two-putted the last for birdie on the par-5 18th.

His 16 birdies lead the tournament.

“I hit the ball a little bit better than I did yesterday, which is nice, and I had the speed of the greens again,” he said. “The greens are soft, they’re a little bit slower today and we could give it a little bit extra rap on it.”

Woods and the rest of the players had the day off Friday as relentless storms beginning Thursday night dropped 8-10 inches of water on Narashino CC, washing out play. With time to kill, Woods led a gang including Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Ryan Palmer and Woodland to a nearby movie theater. But after Joker ended, the crew was stranded as storms forced the closure of local roads and shut down public and private transportation. So the gang walked to a Domino’s and devoured six pies.

“One was dark (Joker) and one was happy (Domino’s),” Woods said. “The needle was out, and we were giving everyone a hard time. It was great.”

Tiger Woods lines up a putt in front of the empty seating area near the 18th green during the second round of the 2019 Zozo Championship in Japan on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

The course for the second round was plenty quiet. Because the course suffered damage due to the storms, spectators weren’t allowed in. With the course eerily quiet, it made for some interesting moments.

“When you make a putt and you kind of put your hand up, you’re like, hmm, don’t really need to put your hand up because there’s no one clapping,” Woods said with a smile.

Now comes Sunday, which will turn out to be the longest day of the tournament. Play is scheduled to begin at 6:30 a.m. local time (5:30 p.m. ET in the United States) and it won’t stop until sunset. There will be no re-pairing for the final round, so Woods will play his third round until about 1:30 p.m. He’ll have a little break – about 20 minutes – and then he’ll start play again and get in as many holes as possible.

The final round will conclude Monday.

“It’s just going to be a long day,” Woods said. “Eat a lot of food tonight and then tomorrow, same thing, make sure that I eat enough and feel good about my warm‑up session. It’s going to be a bit of a test physically and mentally to play for, what, up to 10 hours?”

Woodland was tested throughout his second round. He is on Woods’ radar this week – and for the Presidents Cup. Woods is the captain of the U.S. squad and Woodland, the reigning U.S. Open champion, is one of a handful of players Woods will consider when making his four discretionary selections.

Woodland opened with a 64 to share the lead with Woods after the first round. Woodland’s second round didn’t feel as easy but was still productive.

“It was a grind,” Woodland said after shooting 66. “I’ve been hitting it pretty good the last couple days, and today was a little bit of a struggle. But when you don’t hit it great and you can still shoot 4 under, that’s a good thing, so I’m happy with that today.

“I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing. Outside of today I’ve been hitting the ball really well, so just continue to do that and make a couple putts and we’ll see what happens.”

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