Improved putting gives Tiger fighting chance at CordeValle
California: Thick fog finally gave way to dazzling sunshine at the Frys.com Open Friday, a metaphoric omen for a much needed resurgence by Tiger Woods in the second round of the PGA Tour`s Fall Series event.
A day after struggling to an opening 73 on his return to competition after an absence of nearly two months, Woods regained welcomed form with his putter as he fired a three-under-par 68.
More importantly, he did enough to avoid the embarrassment of missing a second successive cut on the U.S. circuit for the first time as a professional.
"I don`t like missing cuts, period," former world number one Woods told reporters after mixing six birdies with three bogeys for a one-under total of 141 at CordeValle Golf Club.
"If I miss the cut, that means you can`t win the tournament on the weekend. I`ve got a shot at it this weekend."
Woods, whose world ranking has plummeted to 51st following his struggle for form and fitness over the last two years, ended the round seven strokes behind pacesetting Briton Paul Casey and two inside the projected cut line.
"The number was 64 today," the 14-times major champion said of his target for the second round. "I figured if I shot 64, I`d probably be between two and four (shots) back.
"I had it going early there, three (birdies) in a row to get to three under par for the day.
"I made a couple of mistakes there at 18 and one, but overall I`m still within seven shots of it right now."
Back in competition for the first time since he missed the cut at the PGA Championship in August, Woods was especially encouraged by his improved putting Friday.
"I hit one bad putt today, and that was it," he said after totalling 29 putts. "Every other putt was on line.
"I added two strips of lead on the bottom of it (the putter) to add a little more weight to get the ball to the hole and fixed my posture again. I was able to see the line."
Six off the pace overnight on his first appearance in a second-tier Fall Series event, Woods made an encouraging start after a fog delay of two hours 20 minutes.
He pared his opening hole, the par-four 10th, and then hit an exquisite tee shot to inside five feet at the par-three 11th before coolly knocking in the birdie putt.
Though he bogeyed the 13th after finding bunkers off the tee and with his approach, he built momentum with a rousing three-birdie run from the 14th where he rolled in a 23-footer.
Despite being bunkered off the tee at the par-five 15th, he sank a slick eight-foot birdie putt there and then hit a stunning tee shot to just three feet at the par-three 16th to get to one under for the tournament.
He narrowly missed a nine-foot birdie opportunity at the 358-yard 17th, then bogeyed the 18th after losing his ball with a pulled drive into a hazard flanking the left of the fairway.
Out in two-under 34 after finding only one of seven fairways off the tee, he also bogeyed the par-four first where an unexpected smother hook off the tee sent his ball just 160 yards into the left rough.
Woods immediately recovered, though, sinking a seven-footer to birdie the par-four second and getting back to even par overall.
He missed a seven-foot birdie opportunity at the par-four eighth after playing the hole impeccably from tee to green but made amends with a two-putt birdie at the par-five ninth.
"It`s always a progression," said Woods, who is playing only his ninth PGA Tour event of the year after suffering mild strains to his left knee and left Achilles` tendon in April.
"You`ve got to do it on the range at home ... on the golf course ... and eventually here (on tour) and down the stretch and then in major championships and win those bad boys."
Woods, who is working on the fourth swing change of his professional career, has not triumphed anywhere since the 2009 Australian Masters.
"I just get into these lulls where I kind of go back to my old comfort, especially out here when I`m in tournament mode and got to hit shots," he said.