Tiger’s improvement seems to be lasting
By Stephanie Wei under Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods showed signs of improvement Friday, following his dismal performance Thursday at Isleworth Country Club. In the second round of the Hero World Challenge, Woods posted a two-under 70, despite a double-bogey on the last hole — which included a(nother) chunked chip.

Woods carded a three-over total at the halfway mark of the tournament that benefits his foundation. Although he trimmed seven strokes from his first round, he remains in last place in the 18-man field. 

Play was suspended in the afternoon for several hours due to inclement weather, so the final group failed to finish due to darkness. Jordan Spieth, who is fresh off his win at the Australian Open last week, continues to lead at 11-under with one hole to play in the second round.

Woods is making his first start since he hung up the clubs to properly rehabilitate his back and work on his “new but old” swing after missing the cut at the PGA Championship in August. The rust showed in the first round, particularly with his short game — on one hole he needed three chips to reach the green and he chunked two more chips on two other holes.

Tiger improved around the greens in the second round, where he only flubbed one chip and then skulled another.  He upgraded his assessment of his short game on Thursday from “awful” to “not very good” on Friday.

However, he explained his struggles through his overall swing changes with his new swing “consultant” Chris Como. (I remember him saying the same thing when he first started working with Sean Foley.)

“A chip shot is a smaller version (of the swing),” he said. “So this is a different path than I have been using, and it’s showing up. It’s not quite ready yet. Just going to take more time, more practice.”

It’s all part of the “process.”

“The good news is I understand the process,” said Woods when asked about how difficult it is to stay patient during a swing change. “I’ve made changes before in my game and it takes time.

“You know, if you look at probably the longest transition for me was probably my first one in ’97.  After the Masters there I retooled, and it didn’t kick in until May of ’99.  So that was almost two full years. I was having consistent finishes, I just wasn’t winning golf tournaments.  I knew things were starting to click and come together and it was just a process.

“In the end, it worked out pretty good.”

Sure, he was also a lot younger (and healthier) back then, too.

More good news: His swing in general looks good, and even better news is he appears healthy.

“As you look at the speed I’m starting to generate again, I’m starting to get that ball out there,” said Woods.  “That’s very exciting.”

Woods’ trouble around the greens didn’t translate to his ballstriking. Though he didn’t drive the ball as accurately as he did Thursday, he still found 8 of 14 fairways. His iron play was the most solid part of his game, as he hit 13 of 18 greens.

Despite the seven-shot differentiation between yesterday and today, Tiger said the rounds actually felt fairly similar.

“It really didn’t feel that much different than yesterday,” he said. “I hit probably two less worse shots than I did yesterday, but I struck them all solid yesterday and I did again today. Obviously, I hit it a little closer today and made a couple putts.”

While he trails Spieth by 14 shots, Woods still insists on remaining optimistic about finding a way to win this weekend.

“I think that I would like to shoot two really low rounds this weekend and get a W out of here,” he said.  “But if that’s not the case, then that’s not the case.”

Meanwhile, big ups to Woods’ playing partner Patrick Reed, who was donning Tiger’s Sunday uniform of black pants and a red shirt as he walked alongside the 14-time major champion. Reed fired a nine-under 63 to launch up the leaderboard to T3.