Wonderful Woods Silences the Doubters
ANY and all doubts about the form and fitness of 14-time major champion Tiger Woods were well and truly banished during the second round of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort in Florida.
Playing in only the fourth tournament of his comeback, Woods followed a first round 70 with a 68 and found himself as joint leader of the tournament. No matter what happens over the weekend, the achievement cannot be underestimated - this is a tough golf course, with narrow fairways, punishing rough and lightning fast greens. And Woods negotiated it without a blemish on his card until he came to the final hole - his approach from 110 yards missed the green and he took three more to find the hole.
Earlier in the week, Jordan Spieth, who played with him over the opening 36 holes but missed the cut, said he was convinced that Phil Mickelson's victory at last week's WGC Mexico Championship would inspire Woods.
“Seeing Phil win I think was really cool for Tiger, to recognise I’ve got all this time to be still able to get to that high level,” Spieth said. “Knowing his nature that he’s displayed over the last 20 years, it still wouldn’t be surprising if, come Masters time, he’s in the hunt on Sunday and that’s pretty amazing to say.”
Spieth also believes Mickelson and Woods now have more in common, adding: “There’s a lot of similarities now. Tiger’s a family man, he’s been more open with everybody compared to what I heard he was like before, which was head down, focus, this is go time and I’m here to kick everyone’s ass. Now he’s got his friends out here, he recognises where he’s at in the process that’s coming forward for him.”
Woods had produced flashes of his brilliant best in an opening 70 in what is just his fourth PGA Tour event since undergoing spinal fusion surgery - his fourth back operation in three years - last April.
Starting on the back nine, Woods recovered from a wayward drive on the 10th to make par and also parred the next before holing from five feet for a birdie on the 12th.
A superb approach to the 13th set up another birdie from a similar distance and took Woods to within a shot of the lead shared by former US PGA champion Jimmy Walker and Canada’s Corey Conners.
Woods then gave the large crowds even more to cheer as he holed from 12 feet for birdie on the second to join Walker and Conners on four under par.
He enjoyed a stroke of good luck on the par-five fifth when his hooked drive appeared to hit a cart path and bounce back on to the fairway.And the 42-year-old took full advantage by finding a greenside bunker with his approach, splashing out to four feet and holing the birdie putt to take the outright lead.
The last time that happened was during the third round of the Wyndham Championship in August 2015. His dropped shot at the last took him back into a share of the lead with Paul Casey, Brandt Snedeker and Conners, who had yet to tee off.
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