Tiger Woods wielded his new putter with precision to match his lowest score of the year, a five-under-par 65 to jump into contention in the second round at the Quicken Loans National outside Washington on Friday.
A 25-foot birdie that Woods drilled in at his first hole set the tone for the 14-time major champion on a hot and calm morning at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm in Maryland.
The former world number one posted a five-under 135 halfway total, four shots behind clubhouse leader Beau Hossler (66) with half the field done for the day.
“Yesterday I hit a lot of good putts,” Woods told Golf Channel. “They just didn’t go in (even though I) started them on my line with the right pace. “Today I did that, and a lot of them fell.”
Woods, playing his 11th event of the year in his comeback from a spinal fusion, has shown glimpses of his old magic without quite sustaining it for long periods.
He shot 65 on a par-72 course at the Players Championship in May, but apart from that had nothing better than 67 until Friday. Woods switched to a so-called “mallet” putter this week, which he says allows him to make a nice swing at the ball.
“It’s a good feeling for me, just go ahead and trust it’s going to swing,” Woods said. “I don’t like blocking putts. I like feeling that toe move and cover that ball and it felt good today.”
And not just at his first hole, the par-five 10th. He also banged in two more birdies from nearly 20 feet before having a hiccup at the 17th, where he three-putted.
But he bounced back by pitching in from 80 feet for birdie at the next, even reading the break perfectly as his ball curled into the centre of the cup and the large gallery erupted.
Not done yet, Woods slammed in a 40-footer for birdie at the third hole, his ball still motoring as it hit the hole and disappeared.
Woods, 42, signalled he would not attack the course recklessly over the weekend, not that he ever did in his prime either.
“You’ve got to be patient on this course. There’s not a lot of low scores out there,” said the 79-time PGA Tour winner, making his final start before next month’s British Open at Carnoustie.
There were in fact a lot of low scores in perfect morning conditions, none as good as Kevin Streelman’s 62 that left the American three shots behind leader Hossler.