Friday, March 27, 2009
Tiger stays in the hunt at Bay Hill
By Bob Harig ESPN.com
ORLANDO, Fla. -- For the second straight day, Tiger Woods walked off the golf course frustrated with the way he was hitting the ball but nonetheless pleased with the bottom line.
Despite his struggles, Woods shot a 1-under-par 69 on Friday at the Bay Hill Club and finished 36 holes of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in position to make a run at his sixth title in this tournament.
Tiger Woods shot a 1-under 69 on Friday at the Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Fla.
"I played decent today," Woods said. "I didn't hit the ball as well as I'd like to, but I kind of grinded my way along the golf course today and had two chip-ins, which was nice."
Woods was at 137, 3-under par, and just 2 shots out of the clubhouse lead when he finished in the early afternoon, with half the field still on the course.
And he could point to three chip-ins for birdies in two days for his total under par.
Padraig Harrington, who has won the past two major championships and played with Woods during the first two rounds here, described it as one of the best short-game displays he has ever seen.
"He certainly spent his time off chipping," said Harrington, referring to Woods' eight-month absence following knee surgery. "I don't think I've ever seen a finer exhibition."
Woods, who started on the par-4 10th hole, began the round by chipping in from 20 feet for a birdie. He birdied the par-5 12th, three-putted the par-4 16th for a bogey, and bogeyed the first when his tee shot came to rest up against the lip of a bunker, forcing him to play sideways. From there, he had to get up and down for a bogey from over the green.
He also saved par at the par-5 sixth after having to play a sideways shot, then chipped in for another birdie at the eighth hole.
"I think it's getting more game-time experience," said Woods, who is playing his third tournament since returning from knee surgery. " When I first came back at Match Play I didn't feel my short game was very good. It got a little better every day at Doral and then this week is even better.
"It's just getting my feel back. It's a little different than chipping at home. We don't have rough like this, so it was kind of nice to get out here and experience that and actually get my feel."
Harrington, who will try to win his third straight major in two weeks at the Masters, shot 68 and was 1 stroke behind Woods after three-putting the final hole.
Woods has won the Bay Hill tournament five times, including four in a row from 2000 to 2003 and last year, when he made a dramatic 24-foot birdie putt on the 72nd green to win by a stroke over Bart Bryant. That was his 64th PGA Tour title, and he added his 65th -- and 14th major championship -- at the U.S. Open.
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.