AKRON, Ohio, (Reuters) – Tiger Woods came close to shooting only the sixth 59 on the PGA Tour with an electrifying display in yesterday’s second round at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational before he ran out of steam with five holes to play.
Needing two more birdies for the magical number which has never been lowered, Woods narrowly missed a nine-footer at the 15th and a six-footer at the 17th on the way to a nine-under-par 61 at Firestone Country Club
His sizzling score equalled the course record, which he had previously tied in the second round in 2000, and gave him a commanding seven-shot lead with a 13-under total of 127.
Woods, who has triumphed a record seven times in the elite World Golf Championships (WGC) event at Firestone, is bidding to win his fifth title on the PGA Tour this year as he builds momentum for next week’s PGA Championship.
“I had a lot of control today from tee to green and obviously the way I putted, I felt I was in total control of my game,” the American world number one told reporters after totalling only 22 putts.
“Obviously things like that don’t happen every day, and it’s fun when it all comes together and I was able to take advantage of it, especially on a golf course like this.
“This is not exactly an easy golf course. As you can see, six under is in second (place), so the guys aren’t tearing this apart.”
Asked whether he was at all disappointed to fall short in his bid to fire his first 59, Woods replied: “Absolutely not, nope. 61 is pretty good. I’m not bummed.
“Would it have been nice to shoot 59? Yeah. I certainly had the opportunity. I had two good chances at 15 and 17 to do it.
“But the par putt at 18 was even bigger,” Woods said, referring to the 26-footer he sank from the back fringe to keep his card bogey-free, prompting him to raise his right arm skyward with a pointing finger in celebration.
Defending champion Keegan Bradley and Englishman Chris Wood carded matching 68s on the challenging South Course to end the day tied for second, with Swede Henrik Stenson (70) and American Bill Haas (68) a further stroke back at five under.
England’s former world number one Luke Donald (69) and last year’s Masters champion Bubba Watson (69) were among a group knotted at four under but the tournament would now appear to be in Woods’ hands to win or lose as he heads into the weekend at one of his favourite venues with a seven-shot advantage.
Huge galleries watched Woods as he made an explosive birdie-eagle-birdie start on a warm, blustery afternoon.
He hit a superb approach to three feet at the par-four first, drained a 20-foot eagle putt at the par-five second, then rolled in a 12-footer at the par-four third to forge two ahead of the chasing pack in a field of 73 players.
Woods did well to save par at the sixth, sinking a 22-foot putt after his tee shot had ended up behind a tree, before collecting another birdie at the seventh to reach the turn in five-under 30.
Four consecutive birdies from the 10th raised hopes of a possible 59 as the crowds swarming both sides of the fairways swelled in number and became even more vocal in their excitement.
“You definitely could hear it,” said the 14-times major champion. “They were into it.”
Woods scrambled to salvage par at the 14th where his tee shot sailed right into a treeline on the other side of the cart path. From there he hit a low, slicing shot to the back of the green, chipped eight feet past the hole and made the putt.
However, he was unable to make further inroads, squandering his birdie opportunity at the short 15th and settling for par at the 667-yard 16th where he had to lay up in two after his drive ended up against the grain in the first cut of rough.
“I’m very happy I was able to post that (61),” Woods said after parring the last two holes in light rain. “I just kept thinking, you know, whatever lead I had, let’s just keep increasing this lead.
“And it’s at seven now, I believe. So not too bad after two days.”
The five players who have shot 59s on the PGA Tour are Americans Al Geiberger (1977 Memphis Classic), Chip Beck (1991 Las Vegas Invitational), David Duval (1999 Bob Hope Classic) and Paul Goydos (2010 John Deere Classic) as well as Australian Stuart Appleby (2010 Greenbrier Classic).