If Tiger Woods goes on to win the AT&T National this weekend, a possibility after his 3-under par 68 in Friday’s second round, he could consider a three-hole stretch Friday morning the difference between his second victory at this tournament and his defeat at the hands of Congressional Country Club’s venomous Blue Course.
Before temperatures in Bethesda reached triple digits, Woods saved par at Nos. 14 and 15 and then jammed home a 48-foot eagle putt on No. 16. He walked off the 16th green at 1-under par for the tournament and went on to finish 2-under, five shots off the lead.
“Pars at 14 and 15 were something I needed to have happen,” Woods said with sweat streaming down his face 15 minutes after completing his round after noon. “I hit two good wedge shots in there after two poor drives and gave myself a couple good looks, made those, and then I rewarded all that hard work at the very next hole with an eagle.”
Woods, who began the second round on the back nine, made two birdies and a bogey after the turn. He is tied for 11th.
Hunter Mahan shot a 6-under 65 in the afternoon. At 7-under for the tournament, he’ll take a two-shot lead into Saturday’s third round.
Woods believes the winning score won’t be much better than that, especially because high temperatures are expected to remain in the 100s through the weekend. The heat makes the course firm and fast.
“If it stays like this, it’s not going to go anywhere,” Woods said when asked to gauge a winning score. “Today was good, though, because I think the tour staff did a great job of moving some of the tees up when we had corner pins or front pins. They didn’t leave the tees all the way back on these corner pins and some of these front ones, and it was fair.”
Woods drove the ball in the right rough on No. 14, and the ensuing lie was buried. He advanced the ball on the second shot by hacking at it as hard as he could, even lifting his back leg off the ground.
He hit wedge from 77 yards on his third shot, and the ball stopped 3 feet from the cup.
Woods played No. 15 similarly. He advanced his second shot from the rough, and on his third shot he hit wedge from 93 yards to 6 feet.
Having escaped some serious adversity, he rammed home his eagle putt on No. 16. Had it not hit the cup, his birdie would have been in jeopardy.
“I hit it good, and it was just taking a while for it to sneak back to the right,” Woods said.
Woods bogeyed No. 1 and birdied Nos. 5 and 8. He missed five other birdie putts on the back nine, though, four of which were from 17 feet or shorter.
“It’s just one of those days where you just stay patient,” Woods said. “You shoot something in the 60s, and I think that would have been a good score. I shot 68 today, which was — I thought was a very good score.”