PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLORIDA – For a brief moment, it felt like the moment so many had been waiting to see.
Tiger Woods, two strokes off the Honda Classic lead, hitting a tee shot over 360 yards, fist-pumping for big par saves and dialing in his irons better than nearly any other player on another punishing day at PGA National. While others flailed and the cut rose to 5 over – just the fourth time a cut has been that far over-par in a non-major this decade – Woods seemed in control.
Then came the Bear Trap. Oh, that pesky little stretch.
Woods hung a 7-iron in the wind and rinsed his tee ball on the devilish par-3 15th, leading to a double bogey. On the par-4 16th, he hit the green in regulation, but left himself a putt from another zip code, three-putting his way to a bogey.
He did get one punch in on the bear, making birdie on the brutally sinister par-3 17th, a hole which gobbled up 64 balls into the lake guarding the green during the first two rounds. Tiger striped a 5-iron and calmly rolled in a 12-foot putt, making dinner taste far better.
A sweet approach ✅
A bounce-back birdie ✅
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 23, 2018
“I was just trying to hit the green,” Woods said. “I got stuck right between two clubs because that wind laid down. Now, do I wait for the wind to pick up where 5’s good? But if I pin it, it’s going to come up short. So I just went with the wind as it was and hit a big old cut in there.”
The end result was a 1-over 71, moving him forward seven spots on the leaderboard and keeping him four strokes behind Luke List and Jamie Lovemark. Neither player has won on the PGA Tour.
“I feel like I’m right there,” Woods said. “I’m right where I can win a golf tournament. You know, four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.”
The pessimist will say Woods has played two rounds of even-par or worse and hasn’t proven anything. The optimist would say that he currently ranks No. 3 in the field in regards to proximity to the hole and remains stout on the scrambling part, going 11-of-15 thus far. He’s within striking distance heading to the weekend of his third tournament back, and that is encouraging.
When the wind is howling at PGA National, Tiger – and everyone who made the cut – still has a chance.