Tiger Woods showed precisely why he is the world’s No. 1 golfer on Friday, producing a swashbuckling tournament-best 63 to burst into title contention after the second round of the inaugural Turkish Airlines Open.
The 14-time major winner’s buccaneering nine-under effort left him one stroke behind the leading quartet, European money-list leader Henrik Stenson (68), Frenchman Victor Dubuisson (65), Justin Walters of South Africa (66) and Britain’s Ian Poulter (66).
Tiger’s tail seemed to have been tweaked by a late blunder on the final hole of his rain-delayed opening round earlier in the day.
The American dunked his second shot into the water at the 18th and marched off the green with a disappointing bogey six.
Woods only had enough time for a quick snack before he was back out on the first tee for the second round and he looked like a man on a mission as he charged to the turn in 30 strokes with five birdies.
The 37-year-old kept his foot firmly down on the gas on the back nine, four more birdies delighting the crowd on the Mediterranean coast of Antalya.
“It was a round that could have been really special,” Woods told reporters after finishing on 11-under 133 on a sun-kissed day at the penultimate event of the European season. “I made some putts, but I also probably missed four putts inside 10 feet. We are going to have to continue to go low here the way the course is set up and with how soft it’s playing. It’s so receptive that it lends itself to a lot of birdies. You can be so aggressive, the ball’s not rolling out, it’s not bouncing out, so no matter what iron you have to the green, you fire right at the flags.”
Woods’ performance was even more remarkable because he was up at 3:30am in the morning to watch his college football alma mater Stanford play Oregon on TV.
“It was one of those things when we looked like we were going to go up 29-7 … and then a kick goes their way and next thing you know they’ve got a chance to do it again,” Woods said.
“I’m like: ‘I’ve got to go and warm up for this tournament … can you guys just kind of run the ball out and run the clock out’ and they finally did,” he added, referring to Stanford’s 26-20 victory.
Woods was set to play alongside Stenson for the third day running yesterday, but the Swede was worried his niggling wrist injury could give way.
“This is the third week I’ve played with it and it’s getting worse,” Stenson said. “I’m just hanging in there day by day and hope it keeps together. It’s not in a great state. I have inflammation there and I strained something else yesterday as well before I teed off.”
Stenson, who once almost completely disrobed out on the course, took his shoes and socks off to wade in to a lake and splash his ball out 100 yards down the fairway at the long fourth.
“This time at least I didn’t have to take the full kit off,” he said. “It was sitting up there and I managed to get it back in play and save par, so that was good. It’s enough to strip down once, we know that much. I will try and avoid that again in the future.”
Poulter said he was looking forward to another exciting weekend.
“I have eliminated many silly mistakes, but I’m still making the birdies, so that’s definitely going to keep me in the hunt,” he said. “I’m in the mix and that’s always good fun.”
On the evidence of Friday’s display, though, there is little doubt over the man to beat.
“Tiger is playing another game, a different sport,” Dubuisson said.