DORAL, Fla. (AP) — The birdie putt broke sharply and was just inside 25 feet, similar to the one Tiger Woods made last week at Bay Hill for a one-shot victory to extend his winning streak to six months.
He knew it was in. Everyone did.
The biggest difference was the celebration. Woods spiked his cap into the ground at Bay Hill. When he finished his round on the par-3 ninth at Doral with an unlikely birdie, he merely raised the putter in his left hand as the ball still had 8 feet to travel.
Then again, this was only Friday at the CA Championship. No one hands out a trophy until Sunday.
And this time, Woods wasn’t even in the lead.
He closed with two birdies on the Blue Monster for a 6-under 66 that ultimately left him one shot behind former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, but still poised to add to a variety of winning streaks.
“A lot better than yesterday,” Woods said, alluding to a three-putt finish on Thursday.
The cheer for his final birdie was so loud that Masters champion Zach Johnson backed off his putt across the lake on the 18th green and smiled, as if he had to look to see who was responsible for such noise.
But the roars didn’t reach Ogilvy, who was on the front nine finishing his round and kept right on plodding. Ogilvy holed a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 5 to take the lead, then finished with four gritty pars. Ogilvy did a lot of that Friday. He saved par from the bunker four times, got up-and-down from easy spots off the green and wound up with 23 putts in his round of 67.
Ogilvy was at 12-under 132, one shot ahead of Woods, three shots ahead of his best friend, Adam Scott (68). Scott could have been a little closer until having to play one shot left-handed and hitting another into the water, making bogeys on his final two holes.
Even so, they will make for quite a threesome for Saturday, when tee times were moved up to avoid storms.
“How can you not enjoy playing with the guy who’s on his way to being the best golfer of all time?” Ogilvy said.
Ogilvy wouldn’t mind if Woods took a detour on the weekend of this World Golf Championship. He has not won since the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in 2006, and while he certainly feels capable, there is no denying what Woods has done since September.
“Seven in a row? Six in a row? It’s pretty impressive,” Ogilvy said. “That’s a good career. But I mean, so many things can go wrong in a week, even if you’re going well. That he just seems to even ride those out, it’s pretty good.”
Woods had a solid round, nothing spectacular, even when he made two eagles in one round for the first time since the 2007 Buick Invitational, on the North Course at Torrey Pines in the first round. One came at the par-5 12th, when he holed a bunker shot that at worse would have stopped within tap-in range. The other came at No. 1, where he hit a 7-iron downwind to 6 feet.
“The par 5s are where you’ve got to score,” Woods said. “With today’s wind, you could probably hit two par-5s with irons — actually three of the four par 5s with irons — so you’ve got to take advantage of those holes.”
Woods is 8 under on the par 5s, his 36-hole score being 11-under 133.
Is the tournament over?
Woods has never felt that way at the Masters, a major, the Battle at Bighorn, anywhere. Doral is no different.
“They don’t just hand it you because of the way you’ve been playing,” he said.
Even so, he has been playing some pretty good golf. Consider the streaks on the line this week — PGA Tour victories (five), worldwide victories (six), wins at Doral (four), wins at this WGC event (four).
“He’s won these last however many golf tournaments,” Ogilvy said. “He hasn’t lost too many when in contention after two rounds. He hasn’t lost too many at Doral. There’s a lot of things in his favor.”
Those things include the odds.
After the round ended, Ladbrokes had Woods as a 1-to-3 favorite, even though he was in second place. Ogilvy, the 36-hole leader for the first time in three years, was listed at 5-to-1, with Scott at 8-to-1.
“So it doesn’t matter who it is playing against Tiger,” he said. “They’ve been getting burned, the bookies. I read somewhere this week everyone kept loading up on Tiger and they keep taking the bets, and they keep losing. That’s reality.”
What Ogilvy could use is a dream finish for his second WGC title, no small task with Woods only one shot behind.
Everyone else was listed at 66-to-1, for good reason. Look beyond the final group Saturday, and the next best was six shots behind Ogilvy. Phil Mickelson was nine shots behind after missing a handful of short par putts that lipped out. There was a Singh in the mix, but it was Jeev Milkha Singh of India with a 70 to finish in the group at 6-under 138, not the three-time major champion Vijay Singh, who had a 68 and only got to 141.
Ernie Els is helping to bring up the rear at 5-over 149, leaving him 17 shots behind.