Tiger shot two-under on the back nine to salvage an even-par 72. He enters the weekend seven behind Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau. 

By Daniel Rapaport
March 16, 2018

Tiger Woods didn't have his best stuff on Friday at Bay Hill, but he manufactured a two-under back nine to salvage an even-par 72 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He enters the weekend seven strokes behind Henrik Stenson, who backed up a 64 with a three-under 69, and Bryson DeChambeau, the quirky 24-year-old who fired 67-66. 

Tiger's round got off to an inauspicious start, as he rope-hooked his driving iron into the left trees and couldn't salvage a par at the relatively benign opening hole. After two solid up-and-downs at 2 and 3, the wheels were in serious danger of spiraling off when he blocked his tee shot well right at the par-5 fourth, the same hole on which he hit it out of bounds Thursday. This time he got lucky, as his ball ricocheted off the OB fence and ended up in a six-foot wide patch of grass between the fence and a water hazard. He would make par from there. 

The rest of the front nine was characterized by nondescript pars until the ninth, when he pulled a short-iron approach from about 150 to the very left side of the green, leaving about a 60-foot putt. He got too aggressive with the first and putted it off onto the fringe then couldn't make the comebacker, resulting in a two-over 38. 

After pars on 10 and 11, the momentum finally started to trickle in with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 12th. He came to the 15th at -3 overall and +1 for the day. He hit his drive in the fairway but missed his approach short and left, and the ball ended up buried right against the lip of a bunker. Tiger blasted out to 22-feet and drained a momentum-saving par putt, then followed that up with a two-putt birdie at 16. He rimmed out a 15-footer for birdie at 18 that would have resulted in an unlikely under-par round, but he settled for a respectable 72. 

Here's some analysis of his round. 

did not hit the ball very well, plain and simple

From the first tee shot on, Tiger struggled both off the tee and with his approach shots, putting pressure on his short game to salvage a round that could have got out of hand. The good news for Tiger is that his short game is, after all these years and surgeries and everything, one of the world's best, and he was able to bail himself out with crucial up-and-ins. Tiger started to find his swing a bit on the back nine, when he gave himself some good looks at birdies coming down the stretch.

But he battled like he used to 

Yes, yesterday's round was impressive, as was his pinpoint ballstriking at the Valspar. But Friday's round at Bay Hill was equally encouraging for Tiger fans because he managed to stay afloat with far from his best stuff. He's not going to stripe it each and every round—even at his peak, there were off days ballstriking-wise—so it's great to see him manage to shoot even par. 

Two more weekend rounds, which is the most important

Because he's so thoroughly dominated headlines in the past couple months, it's easy to forget that Friday's round was just his 16th on the PGA Tour since this latest comeback. Tiger always talks about getting more tournament reps, about getting his "tournament feels," and the only way that happens is with more weekend rounds. Unless he wins this week to get into next week's matchplay or enters the Houston Open (which he's not expected to), this week will likely serve as his last tune-up for Augusta. Getting to the weekend was the bare minimum standard for this week, and he's accomplished that. 


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