Friday, March 23, 2012

Tiger Woods Tied for the Lead After 36 Holes at Bay Hill

It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves on the golf course. You make a few early birdies and you’re thinking about posting your career low score. The nerves settle in. Every swing is a bit tighter than the one before. It never leads to anything good. 

So it isn’t any surprise to see us all get that same feeling with the way Tiger Woods has golfed his ball through 36 holes at Bay Hill. “What if he can finally do it,” most golf fans are hoping as they see Tiger stalk the Arnold Palmer Invitational as a front-runner that looks as comfortable with his golf game as we’ve seen in more than two years. 

Woods sits at 10-under after a second round 65, co-leading a golf tournament he has won six times in his career. It is the perfect site for his comeback win because it was the same place he had his other comeback win, back in 2009 after coming back from a knee surgery that kept Tiger away from golf from what seemed like an eternity. 

But this wait has seemed longer. We’ve seen Tiger struggle like we never imagined and we’ve seen him play like we didn’t think he could and it was all so unreal and uncomfortable. Sure, he’s contended here and there and we all hoped it would be the week, but there was always something off that never let him close. 

This week has looked different. He opened with a 3-under 69 without really doing anything that special. He hit some loose shots and had a couple of three-putts but it was still a solid opening round. Previously, that round would have been 72 or 73, but the putter woke up from what seemed like a 24 month hibernation to save Tiger’s round.

And Friday, it was on. Tiger hit the ball as good as he has hit it in since the ’09 BMW Championship, a tournament he blitzed by eight shots. He looked confident over his putts, and even the ones that missed looked like good rolls. Even his loose swings were missed in the right spot, like his second shot into the par-5 16th hole, that never cut but was hit far enough to avoid finding the water hazard. 

Through 36 holes, Tiger has made just a single bogey. At one point, Tiger had hit 18 straight greens-in-regulation, something he hadn’t been able to accomplish in five years. 

The hope is that he can hold on. That Tiger can finally finish a 72-hole tournament without that stumble round that keeps coming up. In Dubai earlier this year it was a Sunday 72 that kept him from the winner’s circle. At Pebble Beach, it also happened to be Sunday. At the Honda Classic Tiger roared back with a final round 62 but it was a slow start that kept him just behind Rory McIlroy.

The hope is still there. Tiger is eventually going to win another PGA Tour tournament, and it just seems he is closer and closer to doing that. When the week started, the big story was if Tiger’s Achilles was healthy enough for him to compete. After 36 holes, it appears the only thing that could get in his way is his brain. 

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