A scrambling Tiger still in the hunt
Robert Allenby made a hole-in-one during a torrid stretch that took him from the middle of the pack to the top of the leaderboard Saturday, then finished off a 5-under 66 in blustery conditions to catch Justin Rose in the Deutsche Bank Championship.
“Prettiest shot I’ve ever seen,” Paul Azinger said of the ace by Allenby, a 4-iron from 215 yards on the 16th hole.
Allenby had made a 25-foot birdie on the 15th, then followed his ace with a 10-foot birdie on the 17th and a 20-footer for birdie on the par-5 18th. He traded two birdies with two bogeys on the front nine and was at 6-under 136.
Rose made birdie on three of the par 3s on his way to a 69.
Tiger Woods, remarkably, is still in the hunt for his fifth straight PGA Tour victory.
After opening with a 66 for a one-shot lead, Woods hit into the trees, through the trees and even hit his club against a tree twice on one swing while making an unlikely par. He one-putted six consecutive greens on his back nine — five of them for par — and managed to scratch out a 1-over 72 that left him two shots behind.
“I didn’t hit it very good,” Woods said. “I’m very happy to shoot 72.”
Aaron Baddeley also scrambled his way around in wind that averaged about 15 mph, with gusts that peaked at 31 mph, and shot 71 to join Woods and defending champion Olin Browne (69) at 4-under 138.
The group at 139 included a couple of Ryder Cup players — J.J. Henry and Robert Karlsson of Sweden.
“It blew from the start, right from the very first hole,” Baddeley said of the wind. “There was no advantage to playing in the morning. It was a tough day for patience.”
Woods made it especially tough by bringing a game that didn’t look like it belonged to a guy who has won his last four PGA Tour events, including two majors. He didn’t hit the ball very well on the range. Nothing changed when he stepped to the 10th tee to start his second round and hooked a 5-wood into the rough.
He chuckled when his 6-iron missed his target by 80 feet on the next hole, and he scowled when it didn’t get much better. But his name never strayed too far from the top of the leaderboard, and Woods had a chance to escape with par for the day when he hit his approach on the ninth hole into 6 feet, then missed the putt.
“If I had made that putt on the last hole, that would have gone down as the greatest 71 of all time for me,” he said. “I was grinding hard on that one. I just blocked it.”
And so continued Woods’ recent trend at the Deutsche Bank, the tournament that benefits his foundation. A year ago, Woods opened with a 65 to take the first-round lead, then followed that with a 73 to fall five shots behind. He never quite recovered.
Woods made two birdies on putts inside 8 feet at No. 15 and at No. 6.
Far more entertaining were the pars, especially on his back nine when the round easily could have gotten away from him.
On the par-5 second hole, Woods hooked his tee shot so badly that it went over the heads of the gallery, down a slope and behind two trees. His best option was to aim through a 5-foot gap between the trees. His shot went all the way through the fairway and came within a yard of going into the hazard, and he wound up having to two-putt from 40 feet for par.
Two holes later, Woods pulled another tee shot into the trees, the ball stopping in front of a large oak. Woods hit the trunk with his back swing, hit the ball and dropped the club when the shaft hit the tree on his follow-through.
“It freaked me out because I didn’t think I was going to hit the tree on the back swing,” Woods said. “And then when I hit it (on the follow-through), it felt like my elbow bent around the tree. That didn’t feel very good. But at least I had a good lie on my third shot.”
From 50 yards left of the green, he nearly holed a flop shot on the fly. Instead, he made an 18-foot putt for par.
“It looked like a 4 all the way,” he said.
The round was ugly, and Woods knew it. After driving into deep rough on the left and then rough to the right of the green — and nearly holing his chip — he shook his head and smiled.
“I missed it in the wrong spot on every hole,” he said. “That was not good. But I hit some nice little pitches, and the putter saved me.”
His next tee shot was a 3-wood that round the fairway, and Woods was walking back to his bag when he looked at the gallery and thrust both arms into the air in mock celebration. He might have thrown a party — even picked up the tab — had that 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole dropped, but Woods was in no position to complain.
“I hit more snap hooks than I ever have hit in just about any round I’ve ever played,” he said. “It was just a terrible round of golf. But somehow, I got around.”