Friday, March 14, 2008
Woods struggling with slow Bay Hill greens
By Bob Harig
ORLANDO -- If Tiger Woods is going to win his fifth straight PGA Tour event and seventh in a row overall, he's going to have to figure out the Bay Hill greens, pass more than a dozen players and perhaps take on an old nemesis.
Woods shot 2-under-par 68 in the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, leaving him seven strokes behind leader Vijay Singh, the tournament's defending champion and the only player this century to wrestle the No. 1 ranking away from Woods.
"I'll have to play better and make a lot more putts than I have been," said Woods, who had three birdies, one bogey and several frustrated expressions after leaving putts short. "I just never got the speed of these things today. I kept leaving them short and had a hard time getting to the hole."
The Bay Hill greens suffered from a disease last fall that had tournament organizers scrambling up until the last minute to get them to tour quality. Although they look fine and most players have not had a problem with them, Woods has made it clear since the pro-am on Wednesday that he was not happy with the putting surfaces.
Palmer, the tournament host, said that the condition was "probably one that worried me as much as any" and that experts from the PGA Tour and around the Southeast were consulted.
"We did just about everything that the PhD's for the world would tell us to do to conquer the problem," Palmer said. "The greens are not, let's say the top, top of the board, but they are very puttable, very good."
Woods said the last time he played greens as slow came at the Tour Championship last September at East Lake in Atlanta -- a tournament he won by eight strokes -- where drought conditions played havoc with the greens.
"They were slow, but they were smoother," Woods said. "These are slow, and the hard part was every green has slightly different speeds and I have to make the adjustments and I struggled to make the adjustment today."
Woods, who practices on fast greens at nearby Isleworth and tries to ready himself for the speed of major championship greens, said it is hard to let go on these greens because "you don't want those [short putts] coming back, not on these things."
And, Woods said, it doesn't do much good to put in extra work on Bay Hill's practice green.
"It's the best green on the property," he said. "I just have to try to hit the ball a little better and give myself some putting chances and hopefully I can give myself putts where I can go ahead and take a run at them and give them a roll and hopefully go in."
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.