The beauty of Tiger Woods is his unending ability to reinvent himself.
Coming off a missed cut at the British Open at Turnberry, Woods once more was in need of a change. He added the Buick Open to his schedule, giving him a rare three-tournament-in-a-row stretch through the PGA Championship, and he responded with his best round of the 2009 season, and one of the best of his career.
Woods blistered Warwick Hills on Friday with a nine-under-par 63 on a day when it looked as though he might shoot 59. His two-day total of 10-under 134 left him two shots behind the leader, Michael Letzig, who shot 65.
Starting on the back nine at Warwick Hills, Woods birdied the 10th hole and then got serious. He followed birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-par-birdie. He was seven under through his first seven holes. The eagle came at the par-4 12th when Woods holed out from 33 yards, and he drove the green on the 322-yard 14th, making an easy two-putt birdie. With no television coverage, Woods's swings at the Buick became the domain of cyberspace.
Would he shoot 59? 60? 58?
Woods closed out his front nine in 30 after bogeying the par-4 18th, but he answered with a birdie on the first hole, his 10th. After five consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-5 seventh hole and the par-3 eighth before closing with a two-putt par on the par-4 ninth. The 63 was his lowest score in a PGA Tour event since he shot the same number at the 2007 Tour Championship. (Woods's best PGA Tour round is a 61.)
After missing the cut in a major for only the second time as a professional, no one knew how Woods would respond. When he started the Buick Open with a listless one-under 71 on Thursday, he was once again in danger of missing the cut. He described Thursday's round as "one of the worst putting days I've ever had," but he found his touch on the greens on Friday.
"Yesterday my speed was bad, and today the read was smoother," he said. "I just made sure I got my speed correct, and I was all right."
Woods, who missed nearly nine months in 2008 and 2009 after reconstructive knee surgery, has yet to break through in the majors this season, but he has handled the PGA Tour schedule just fine.
Two weeks before the Masters, he won Arnold Palmer's tournament at Bay Hill. Two weeks before the U.S. Open, he took Jack Nicklaus's event at the Memorial.
When Woods won his own event, the AT&T National, two weeks before Turnberry, he looked like a lock to win the claret jug for the fourth time.
Instead, Woods lost a tee shot in the rough, slammed clubs, and missed the weekend.
A victory at the Buick Open would surely give Woods momentum heading into the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational next week and the PGA Championship at Hazeltine two weeks from now. But Woods has had trouble bringing his stellar play from one venue to the next. Was his 63 at Warwick Hills a flash or something more lasting?
Woods has two more rounds at the Buick Open and one more major on the horizon for further reinvention.