LA JOLLA, Calif. — If you thought a double bogey on the first hole of Torrey Pines South was going to derail Tiger Woods, perhaps you need a history lesson.
He double-bogeyed the relatively straightforward par 4 three times during the 2008 U.S. Open and won the tournament. He made 6 yet again on Friday at the Farmers Insurance Open, albeit in different fashion—a four-putt from 25 feet, the result of a misread first putt, an unlucky bounce on the second putt and a good old fashioned yank on the third one.
Yet he managed to get past it, making five birdies en route to a one-under 71 that kept his chase for a record 83rd PGA Tour victory alive. At four under for the tournament, Woods will enter the weekend six back of Ryan Palmer, who shot a 10-under 62 at the gentler North Course. Woods has overcome bigger deficits here at Torrey, where he has won eight times as a professional (and once as a junior), erasing a nine-shot deficit in 1999 with a 62-65 weekend.
“I hit a lot of good shots, driving the ball a lot better,” Woods said. “When you get on poa, a lot of times it’s just a matter of whether the ball is bouncing in, or bouncing out. I felt like I did a good job of leaving the ball below the hole for the middle part of my round, and I made those putts.”
Yes, the middle of the round, that was much better indeed. After missing birdie putts inside 10 feet at four and five, Woods finally got on the board with an up-and-down birdie at the par-5 sixth. He added another after beautiful 7-iron at the par-3 eighth and converted a 15-footer for birdie at nine to turn in one-under 35.
After a three-perfect-shot birdie at 10, Woods had climbed within reach of the lead, but he bogeyed the difficult par-4 12th after his drive crawled into a fairway bunker. He needed an up-and-down for bogey at 17 after he toe-hooked a 3-wood into the native area left of the fairway but was able to close with a birdie at the par-5 18th, where he has more than a few positive memories to draw from.
Despite two slow starts—he started 5-5 on Thursday at the North—Woods seemed pleased with the state of his game, particularly his comfort level with his new TaylorMade SIM driver. Woods hit nine of 14 fairways on Friday and has hit 17 of 28 overall, an impressive number considering Torrey Pines’ two courses were the first and second hardest fairways to hit on tour last season.
“I am excited about the way that I’m driving the golf ball,” he said. “My short game’s also been really sharp. It’s just a matter of getting the ball in the right spots to make some more putts.”
Getting the ball in the right spots, making more putts, and, ideally, avoiding a double bogey on that first hole. The disaster on Friday was Woods’ first four-putt since last year’s WGC-Mexico Championship.
Woods will tee off his third round at 7:55 a.m. (PST) alongside Tyler McCumber and Chris Baker.
“Anything can happen on the South course, especially the way it’s playing now,” Woods said. “It’s so much more difficult, and so much more volatile. If you shoot a good round on the South, you’ll move up the board.”