Friday, 19 March 2010

No other golfer is viewed through such a narrow lens as Tiger Woods. After a career-worst back nine of 43 last Sunday and then by his own remarkably high standards an average start to the WGC - CA Championship, the question being muttered around the fairways of Doral Golf Resort & Spa was, ‘What is wrong with Tiger?’ The answer, judging by his second round of six under par 66, was pretty empathic: nothing.

Woods’ six-birdie card catapulted him from a share of tenth spot at the start of the day into a two stroke lead over Australian Rod Pampling, with the World Number One a total of seven under par 137 for his two rounds on the Blue Monster.

A strong European Tour challenge can be found in third spot where Thomas Björn of Denmark, the South African duo of Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson are tied on four under par.

Also on that mark are Australian Aaron Baddeley and the Americans Charles Howell III and Zach Johnson, while among the group a stroke further back are Spain’s Sergio Garcia, England’s Ian Poulter and US Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy of Australia.

It is a truly international leaderboard in perfect symmetry with the traditions of the World Golf Championships.

Blustery conditions once again made scoring difficult for the elite field and Stenson, the overnight co-leader after a first day 67, fell foul of the conditions as he dropped four shots in his last seven holes for a round of one over par 73.

“I didn’t drive the ball as well as yesterday and that put me in some trouble off the tee. It’s tough from there on. When you are playing downwind and coming out of the rough, you have no chance of holding the green.

“I just had to keep on fighting and I’m still in a good position for tomorrow,” commented Stenson.

In fact, it was Stenson’s fellow Scandinavian Björn who really had to fight to keep his round going. The Dane, no stranger to drama during a career that has brought him nine European Tour wins and selection for two Ryder Cups, was six under par for the tournament when he made a hugely demoralising four-putt double bogey seven at the tenth – statistically the third easiest hole in Friday’s second round.

But to his immense credit Björn managed to take the disappointment in his ample stride, responding with six consecutive pars and then a birdie at the 17th.

However, with the 18th playing as tough as it was – only one birdie was made there all day – the best Björn could hope for was to close with a par. But after finding the rough off the tee and being forced to lay-up, he knocked a wedge just off the back of the green and two putted for a bogey and a level par round of 72.

“Sometimes these things happen,” rued Björn. “It was just really windy on the tenth and I didn’t feel very comfortable over the ball. I think every player in the field has had one in their life.

“But all in all I have to be pleased with the golf I’ve played over these last two days. It’s been really solid and there’s a lot of good stuff in there that I can build on. And after four weeks’ off, that’s pretty nice.”

Els added his second consecutive 70 and compatriot Immelman, the only man other than Woods to keep a bogey off his card, was round in 68 to join their two European Tour colleagues on four under.

But the day undoubtedly belonged to Woods, who will go into the weekend as the nailed-on favourite to register his 13th WGC success and a sixth triumph in this event alone.

“I made two good par putts in my 18 holes and I basically kept it clean all day. No dropped shots, and under those conditions, I am very proud of that,” said Woods.

The American was uncharacteristically sloppy on the greens during his opening round 71 but put that right with some good old fashioned hard work on Thursday evening, which led to him taking 26 putts as opposed to 32.

“I worked through a few things and finally got to a position where I could release the blade again. Yesterday I was dragging the putter head and I don’t putt well that way.”

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