DUBLIN, Ohio — Remember when Tiger Woods was 4-over-par through his first seven holes of the Memorial Tournament?
Neither does anyone else.
Woods electrified the galleries Friday at Muirfield Village Golf Club, making eagle from the fairway, hitting the pin on a par-3 tee shot, and sinking five birdie putts. It was vintage Tiger as the five-time Memorial champion fired a 5-under 67 in the second round. He enters the weekend tied for 24th, six shots off the lead shared by Joaquin Niemann and Kyle Stanley, in contention to win his 80th PGA Tour event and first in five years.
But the day wasn’t devoid of hiccups. Woods missed five putts of seven feet or less, which would have turned a 67 into a 62, one shot off John Huston’s course record 61 set in 1996.
“Yeah, I am [disappointed],” Woods said. “I did not putt well today.”
It was a ballstriking clinic, with Woods throwing darts at the pin and sometimes finding the bottom of the cup. On the par-5 No. 11, he made an eagle 3 after holing out a 56-degree sand wedge from 95 yards out, sending a roar around the golf course. He’s 9-under in his past 29 holes.
Woods ranked first in the field in the second round in proximity to the hole, strokes gained tee-to-green, and sand saves, and second in strokes gained approach. But he was 119th out of 120 in strokes gained putting, which is why Woods went to practice at the putting green immediately after his round. A setting sun was no worry.
“I hit some good shots in there, and I had nice control of pretty much everything,” Woods said. “Unfortunately, I missed a lot of short putts, which is something I don't normally do. It’s frustrating. I've got to clean that up. Hopefully, I can get it going and I can play well like this on the weekend, and I've got a great chance of winning this tournament.”
Woods began his day with a three-putt bogey on No. 1. On the par-3 No. 12, his tee shot rattled the pin and settled less than eight feet from the hole. But before he could attempt his birdie putt, the horn sounded for a weather delay because of lightning in the area. After the delay that lasted 88 minutes, Woods missed his putt. He had another opportunity for birdie on the par-4 No. 13, sticking his approach shot inside five feet. But once again, Woods failed to convert the birdie, lipping out on the low side.
Problems with the flatstick continued on the par-3 No. 16, when Woods missed a seven-foot birdie putt, and he failed to convert a three-footer for par on No. 17.
“I just hit terrible putts,” Woods said.
He did dramatically improve his par-5 performance. In the first round, he was 1-over on the par 5s — 3-over on the back nine alone. In the second round, Woods 5-under on the par-5s, with an eagle and a birdie on the back.
“That’s definitely the most improved award. I get that plaque,” Woods said, smiling.
Players took advantage of overnight rain showers that created soft conditions. There were 83 rounds under par, with 10 rounds of 66. Several marquee names, which were nowhere to be seen Thursday, moved into contention with low numbers after the second round.
Phil Mickelson (66), Adam Scott (66), Dustin Johnson (66), Henrik Stenson (66), Justin Rose (66), Bubba Watson (67), Jason Day (68), and Patrick Reed (68) are all within seven shots of the lead.
World No. 1 Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler are tied for 44th at 3-under.
“I felt like I left a pretty good amount of strokes out there,” Thomas said. “With the conditions, it was definitely a day I could have gotten a pretty low one. But, hopefully, we’ll get one this weekend.”
Who knows what the weekend holds for Woods, but it feels like he’ll continue a stretch of positive momentum and stir up memories from years past on the weekend. Muirfield Village is a venue where he’s won five times and Woods already is in good form.
In his most recent start, Woods finished with rounds of 65-69 at the Players Championship and tied for 11th, sustaining a season-long trend where he’s two strokes better on the weekend.
“I've always felt comfortable here,” Woods said. “And this golf course has been the one that I just had a good feeling about. Over the course of my entire career, I've really done well on Nicklaus courses.”
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