NEW PROVIDENCE, Bahamas — Charley Hoffman said at the beginning of the week that he hopes Tiger Woods wins this week, albeit with a caveat.
“It’s great for the game of golf,” he said, explaining his logic. “Hopefully I can stop him from winning this week.”
He’s halfway there.
Hoffman made a dozen birdies, including four in his first five holes and five straight to close, en route to a nine-under 63 Friday to take a three-shot lead into the weekend at the Hero World Challenge.
Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood are tied for second, while Justin Rose is another stroke back. Woods is one of five players tied for fifth, five strokes back.
“I feel good,” Hoffman said. “If I’m making putts and the ball’s going into the hole from on the green, I usually have a chance on Sunday.”
Friday, he needed just 21 putts, including just nine over his final nine holes. And though it is his first time playing in the event at Albany, he has played the course a handful of times while vacationing on the island.
While Hoffman wouldn’t mind playing the spoiler role in Woods’ comeback, the victory would also be meaningful for him.
The 40-year-old hasn’t won since the 2016 Valero Texas Open, and this season has had a handful of close calls, including at Riviera, Bay Hill, the Masters, in Canada and at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
But he has more than Woods to worry about. Eleven players are within six strokes of the lead with two rounds to go, including defending champion Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed.
Still, Hoffman would relish the opportunity to battle the tournament host down the stretch.
“We're all cheering for Tiger to play great golf,” he said. “It's a good time to be out here for his foundation, and obviously I want to beat him just like everybody else does, but in the back of our heart we're all cheering him on.”