5 Things We Learned from Tiger Woods’ Second Round at Hero World Challenge

December 2, 2016

Well, that was a blast.

The Tiger Woods Comeback Tour continued Friday afternoon under clear Bahamian skies, where Woods fired a bogey-free 65 that felt (and looked) an awful lot like old times.

Because Justin Rose withdrew Friday morning with a back injury, Woods began the day alone – both at the bottom of the leaderboard and on the course. With the tournament suddenly at an odd number of competitors, Woods teed off first and played as a single, spinning through 18 holes in less than three hours. (Apparently Albany Golf Club doesn’t have a resident Jeff Knox waiting in the wings.)

Woods was coming off a one-over 73 in round 1, but entering the day optimism in certain circles was running high:

Seems Woods’s former swing coach still has a pretty good read on his former Jedi. Here are five other things we learned from Woods’s Friday round.

1. He can do this. A Friday in the Bahamas isn’t exactly Sunday in Augusta, but Woods played steady, clinical golf for a full 18 holes. On Thursday he stumbled home with two doubles in the last three holes to squash five birdies. But on Friday he sorted out the pulled drives, chunked chip shots and water balls. Sure, the entire (now) 17-man field was shooting out the lights at Albany, but Woods was in the thick of it. This was — to borrow one of Woods’s favorite terms — progress. Even his signature club twirl looked sharper.

2. The strength of Tiger’s game? His irons. This week Woods has swapped in a few new pieces of gear, including a TaylorMade driver and Bridgestone ball. (And new shoes!)  But 36 holes in, his old, reliable Nike irons have been carrying him. On Friday he hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation. Some highlights: Woods flagged an approach on 1 to set up his first birdie, knocked it inside 20 feet on 5, and stuffed it on 9 to set up his third birdie on the front nine. On the par-3 11th he staked one inside the leather and tapped in for a deuce.

3. The second-biggest strength of Tiger’s game? His putter. Woods has returned to his trusty Scotty Cameron flatstick, the same wand he used while slaying his competition in the ’90s and early 2000s. It’s already paying dividends: Woods took just 29 putts on Friday. On the 16th hole, which Tiger doubled on Thursday, Woods’s tee ball missed the fairway by a few yards and slammed off a bunker side-slope before bounding into a clump of shrubs and rocks. Woods blasted out, wedged to 25 feet, then buried his longest par-saver of the day.

4. His driver is still a little iffy — but hey, no sign of the chip yips. Woods hit 9 of 13 fairways, which for a pro is somewhat middling on a wide open resort course. But other than the 16th hole, Woods’s misses were manageable. Because he hit so many greens, Woods only had a few touch shots around the putting surfaces, but they were solid, ensuring his clean scorecard.

5. Golf Channel’s TV deal with the PGA Tour is bad for golf fans. Woods’s return is easily the biggest thing to happen in golf since the Ryder Cup, and one of the biggest stories of the year. How can you not show the entirety of his round? Golf Channel did not immediately respond this to this query when I asked Friday morning, but after cutting into its programming to show every shot Tiger hit in round 1, the network failed to break away to give its viewers a live look at Tiger’s start to round 2. (In a cruel twist, as Woods teed off on the first hole, Golf Channel actually showed a highlight of his opening shot from Thursday.) Woods smoked his first shot down the middle on Friday and went on to make birdie. Golf Channel’s first live look-in came as Woods chipped up on the 4th hole. Friday was a fun, throwback round for Tiger fans. It would have been even better if those fans were treated to every shot.