Thursday 29 September 2016

'Patient' Tiger continues his revival with sizzling 66

William S Callahan

Published 01/08/2015 | 02:30

Tiger Woods is in no rush to return to golf
Tiger Woods is in no rush to return to golf

Is Tiger back from the wilderness? Will he continue to challenge the leaders in today's third round of the Quicken Loans National after a season-best five-under-par 66, or slump back to mediocrity?

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The golfing world waits with anticipation, but just a couple of weeks after the British Open in which he missed the cut, Woods got his mojo and momentum going in style at Robert Trent Jones GC in Gainesville, Florida, and the galleries loved it.

Starting on the 10th tee, Woods looked ready to build on Thursday's 68, which featured a run of four birdies around the turn, and did not disappoint.

The putter became a friend once more, as he holed some long-range efforts for birdie, including a 36-footer on the eighth hole.

There was also some focused wedge play, particularly on the 15th where he drove the ball 328 yards, then smoothed a 153-yard wedge shot over the flag to three feet and slotted in for a birdie three.

Progressing

Woods said the key was patience. At St Andrews he spoke prior to the start of the Open of feeling his game was progressing and that he would not give up on chasing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 Majors.

He then went out and failed to qualify for the final two rounds, but now the outlook is brighter.

"I've been playing well, hitting the golf ball well. I feel like my putting has been good. Just stay patient, just stay with it and it will turn if I stay patient, which I did," he said.

A haul of six birdies and just one bogey left Woods on eight under the tournament, and one off the lead when he finished his round at 1.0pm local time yesterday.

His 134 is the lowest 36-holes total he has enjoyed since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Woods hit ten of 14 fairways, and reached 14 out of 18 greens in regulation.

More important is the surge of confidence as the 14-time Major winner begins to feel the swing changes he has worked on with coach Chris Como are finally bedding in.

Above all, he rediscovered his scoring touch, that ability to make birdie chances and take advantage of them.

In Europe, Michael Hoey has delved into the memory banks of his prime in the amateur ranks to stay focused in the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play.

Hoey won the British Amateur championship in 2001, and reached today's third round at Murcar Links in Aberdeen with a 5&4 victory over Sweden's Kristoffer Broberg yesterday.

"I was trying to remember, 14 years ago I won the British Amateur, so I was trying to take back some memories of getting against the opponent, strategies for match play. It's been a long time," said the Ulsterman

"I don't remember any other real match play. I haven't played Ryder Cup, yet. It's a different format, very exciting.

"It's all about getting off to a good start. I got off to a good start and holed a few putts. Kristoffer was a bit unlucky at the start."

Hoey will play Gregory Havret of France, who beat England's Seve Benson 2&1. If successful, Hoey will face another 18 holes in the afternoon's fourth round.

Tournament host Paul Lawrie lost by one hole to Chris Doak. His loss and that of Edoardo Molinari to Richie Ramsay means there are only three Ryder Cup players left in the tournament - David Howell, Robert Karlsson and Nicolas Colsaerts.

In stroke play action at the Madeira Islands Open in Portugal, Waterford's Kevin Phelan shot 69 for a six under par 138. That left him five adrift of leader Sam Walker of England, who followed his opening 67 with a 66 yesterday.

Walker (37) has won three times on the Challenge Tour but cannot take anything for granted.

"It was tough out there, but if you played with the wind a little bit you'd create some chances," he said.

"I play with a fade so I can use the wind to my advantage a little more than other people. It could have been better, but this is Madeira, it's never easy here."

Ruaidhri McGee's 73 moved him to two under par and safety, but Peter Lawrie (74) and Simon Thornton (77) missed the cut on three over and five over par respectively.

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