Atlanta, Georgia- After Tiger Woods shot a routine 66 yesterday in his opening round at the TOUR Championship, the doubters were coming out in full swing. Tiger simply can’t put four rounds together. He will fade in the second round and be chasing the leaders the whole weekend.
The second round proved to be more difficult than the first. East Lake started to show its toughness as a golf course, as more players were shooting scores over par. But amidst the blazing quick fairways and greens of East Lake, Tiger shot a brilliant 68 to maintain his position at the top of the leaderboard alongside Justin Rose at 7-under par.
“I would describe today as a grind it out round,” says Woods. “I wasn’t quite as sharp as I was yesterday, but hung in there and tried to miss the ball on the correct sides so I had angles. And for most of today, I did that.”
Tiger Woods Responds From Bogeys with Birdies
There were moments in today’s round where the wheels could have fallen off for Woods. Take number 9 for example when Tiger pulled his second putt resulting in a bogey. But he was able to respond on the back 9 where his putting got back on track.
“I was pretty hot because I pulled that second putt, and I had been putting so beautifully yesterday and today and just hit a bad pull there,” says Woods. “I tried to make sure I was focused enough on that back nine to shoot something under par, and I got back after it again.”
It was on 13 where the Big Cat made a critical eight-foot par save. He then responded on holes 14 and 15, two of the most difficult at East Lake, with 14 and 23-foot birdie putts respectively. But Woods credits the par save on 13 to provide the critical momentum he needed to start draining long putts.
“I made a mistake on 13; from the middle of the fairway, I just can’t miss that ball right of the flag. Luckily I had an easy bunker shot which left an uphill putt and was able to make par.”
Rose, McIlroy Chasing Woods
Playing with Woods tomorrow will be World Number One Justin Rose, who shot a three-under 67 in his second round. With five birdies on the card, Rose is confident that his game is in a good enough place to be in contention come Sunday.
“Making back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14 was great,” says Rose. “I hit some good putts that hadn’t gone in, and to make those two suddenly got me up there. At that point, I took a look at the leaderboard and realized guys hadn’t done much today. The course was playing a bit trickier. I know I’m in a good spot going into the weekend.”
Rory McIlroy is another golfer to not overlook this weekend as a former TOUR champion back in 2016. Despite hitting 4 of 14 fairways today, McIlroy has generated 12 birdies through 36 holes. His putting has been a key asset that has propelled him to the penultimate group on Saturday.
“I’ve made so many birdies these first 36 holes and that’s not even birdieing either of the par-5’s today,” said McIlroy. “The driving is there. The couple of loose ones that I hit, they weren’t far off. Even the ones that I missed weren’t too bad. I feel like I’m swinging well and my game has continuously gotten a little bit better over the last few weeks so I’m in a good place.
Woods in Leading Position, Not Fighting From Behind
In many of the tournaments this year where Tiger was in contention, most notably The Open and the PGA, the superstar had to battle his way back from behind to get in the mix come Sunday. Now, heading into the weekend at the TOUR Championship, Woods controls his own destiny, needing to rely on effective driving and solid ball striking to conquer this blazing fast golf course.
“This is a tough golf course,” states Woods. “A lot of pars are going to be made out here. That’s basically what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to make a bunch of pars and sprinkle in a few birdies here and there.”
Currently, Tiger is second in Strokes Gained: Around the Green and first in sand save percentage, scrambling and one putt percentage. Woods has converted 28 of 33 opportunities with the outright lead and nine of 14 with at least a share of the lead. But there is a ton of golf still to be played and the approach the next two days will be similar as to what got him to this point in the tournament. Expect to see thrilling drama down the stretch as the TOUR Championship and FedEx Cup milestones hang in the balance.