Putting on fresh greens Friday morning, Tiger Woods shot a four-under 68 to vault up the leaderboard and — gasp! — put himself in contention at the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Invitational. And honestly, I’m not sure what to make of it yet. Is he “back?” I don’t know. It’s one round. Put two or three in a row together and then let’s talk.
Still fiddling with his putter and swing, Tiger has the Nike Method 003 — a similar version to the one he used at Doral — in his bag this week. Though he only needed 26 putts on Friday, he felt more could have dropped.
“Unfortunately, I left a lot of putts dead-center short,” said Tiger after his round. “There were about five putts that were dead center. It could have been a pretty special round.”
He dropped a 23-footer for birdie on No. 9, his last hole. The Spring Break boozed-up crowds went wild. During a stretch of six or so holes, there was a spirited buzz in the galleries. Even when he’s not playing his best, like yesterday, fans are always cheering him on. “Go get ’em, Tiger!” hollered a guy. “You still da man!” yelled another.
“We definitely tend to feed off of one another when I get it going and it’s a lot of fun,” said Tiger about the crowds.
Tiger was also pleased with his ballstriking, though he only hit six fairways, two better than Thursday.
“I feel like I’m able to control my trajectories,” he said. “That was nice. As I said yesterday, most of the day, especially coming in, I had a good feel for that and today was about the same.”
It’s true. Yesterday, he hit some nice stingers when he finally started finding fairways on No. 12 and No. 13.
What’s he not pleased with? The greens. They’re soft today, making them inconsistent from the rest of the week, which cost him a few shots.
“I had a hard time getting the ball to the hole today,” said Tiger, repeating himself. “That was probably the main thing, I left five putts that were dead-center short…I was very surprised how slow these things were today. They must have soaked them pretty good last night because balls were holding, they were spinning back a little bit, very different than what we had yesterday.”
He pointed out how bumpy the greens were, too — even in the morning.
“(The greens) are starting to get chewy,” said Tiger. “Anybody who wears metal spikes like me or some of the other guys who wear soft spikes that turn their feet a little bit. Dustin and Gary got behind a couple Mt. Everests out there, and unfortunately they couldn’t do anything about it. But the guys in the afternoon are probably going to have to deal with it.”
Yes, the spike marks you left behind. I mean, isn’t that like the pot calling kettle black? Which is basically what he just did there.
Getting into contention was important, but Tiger played it off.
“It’s just like anything else,” said Tiger. “We are trying to build towards the first major, and that’s kind of how my game is kind of headed towards. It’s building and building.”
With Tiger on the leaderboard going into the weekend, there’s certainly an added buzz at Bay Hill.
Currently, he’s T11 with the afternoon wave still on the course. First round leader Spencer Levin, who shot 70 in the morning, leads by two over a cluster of players.
It’ll be interesting to see what Tiger does this weekend. Golf is certainly more fun when he’s in contention. Well, maybe not — it’s just that people beyond hardcore golf fans actually care.
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)