It was an exceptional start to an exceptional round.
Tiger Woods began Round 2 of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational birdie-eagle-birdie, a 4-under start on the first three holes. He added another birdie on the par-3 seventh hole, and parred the other holes on the front nine for a score of 5-under 30, which put Woods squarely on “59 watch.”
And forget the huge lead Woods was amassing on the field — three shots at the turn and seven shots at the finish — the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer birdied the first four holes of the back nine, putting himself 9-under through 13 holes. At that point, 59 wasn’t just being whispered about by the Golf Channel’s announcers. “59 Watch” was displayed prominently above the Golf Channel’s logo during television coverage.
Only five men, Stuart Appleby, Paul Goydos, David Duval, Chip Beck and Al Gieberger, have shot rounds of 59 on the PGA Tour, and none of them in a World Golf Championship event or on a course as tough as Firestone Country Club. All Tiger needed was two birdies on Firestone’s last five holes to add to his already gaudy resume. Heck, the way Tiger was going, he might shoot 58!
But the seven-time WGC-Bridgestone Invitational winner couldn’t convert a birdie on any of Firestone’s closing holes. He hit a wayward driver on No. 14, but managed to save par by holing an 8-footer. He had two makeable putts for birdie on Nos. 15 and 17, but the putt on No. 15 didn’t break, and the putt on No. 17 broke too much.
On the final hole, Tiger found the deep rough on the left side of the fairway, forcing him to try to hook an iron shot around and over the trees. But the ball hit a large pine tree and careened into the trees on the right. It seemed like Woods would make a bogey or worse on No. 18, but he bumped an iron to the back part of the green and holed an improbable par putt to tie his course record of 61 at Firestone.
After the round, Woods said that 59 was not his sole focus on the back nine, because he has achieved the feat before (in informal setting). Coming down the stretch, he said he began to play a bit more conservatively, which led to key putts missing the hole.
Although an inability to make a couple more birdies on the final few holes left him unable to claim the mystical “59,” Tiger’s round of 61 will still go down as one of his more dominant performances on the PGA Tour. Especially for the reason that the next best score on the course in Round 2 was a 66 from John Merrick — five shots higher than Woods’ score.
Woods’ 61 and seven-shot lead is so far his most impressive feat under swing instructor Sean Foley, but as Woods said after the round, “there is still a long way to go.”
Other golfers in the mix
Keegan Bradley and Chris Wood are tied at 6-under after matching rounds of 68, seven shots behind Woods.
Bill Haas and Henrik Stenson are tied for fourth at 5-under, and Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner and Bubba Watson sit nine shots back of Woods at 4-under, tied for sixth place.