Woods stays solid at The Honda Classic
February 23, 2018
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods fights back with birdie on No. 17 at Honda
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – He raised his putter in the air on No. 9 as his 24-foot birdie putt rolled in the hole. Two holes later, he swung his fist after a grinding par.
Tiger Woods was only two shots off the lead as he toured PGA National’s trying back nine, much to the delight of the boisterous fans who’d enjoyed some beverages to survive the hot South Florida sun.
The question – “Is Tiger back?” – has been asked so often amidst his countless comebacks that it has become cliché, but on this afternoon it was difficult for fans to remember that they were watching a man who had undergone four back surgeries.
Woods sits at 1-over 141 through two rounds, four shots behind co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark.
“I’m right there in the ballgame,” he said.
The enthusiasm was dampened when Woods rinsed his tee shot at the par-3 15th and followed with a three-putt bogey on the next hole, but he inched back toward the leaders with some masterful play on the most difficult hole of the day, the par-3 17th. He hit a cut 5-iron within 12 feet of the hole to make one of the nine birdies there in the second round.
Woods almost ended one victory drought here. In search of his first win after his personal scandal, he shot a final-round 62 to finish second to Rory McIlroy in 2012. Now Woods is seeking his first victory since his Player of the Year season in 2013, and it’s not implausible that it could come this week.
The cross-country trip from Pacific Palisades to Palm Beach Gardens seemed to serve Woods well. A week ago, he looked lost as he struggled to a back-nine 39 at Riviera to miss the cut by four. Now he’s four shots from the lead.
“I love Riviera. I just don’t play well there,” Woods said Friday. “We’re back at a golf course I know and I play well here. I felt like I hit a lot of good golf shots, especially in this wind.”
He’s passing the toughest test of the season. The average score on PGA National’s par-70 Champion Course has been just a touch under 73. Woods is 29th in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and 16th in Strokes Gained: Putting this week. He’s hit more than half his fairways (15 of 28) and 21 of 36 greens. He's third in proximity to the hole (30 feet, 4 inches).
“I’m getting there. I feel like I’ve made some nice tweaks,” Woods said. “I’m hitting the ball flush, and on top of that, I’m really controlling the (trajectory).”
A difficult weekend awaits, but Woods’ game is moving in the right direction.