Woods tops leaderboard at Australian Open, pleased at how well he played

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"It feels good," Tiger Woods said of seeing his name listed first on the scoreboard. "It feels good to be there playing properly."
By
Dennis Passa
Associated Press

Series: Other Tour

It was the shot of the day Friday at the Australian Open, and one that made the Tiger Woods of today look ominously like the one of yesterday.

Standing about 280 yards from the green on the par-5 eighth hole at The Lakes Golf and Country Club, Woods grabbed his 3-wood, flushed it with a slight fade into a brisk breeze and rolled it on to the green. Two putts later, his birdie helped him to a 5-under 67 and a one-stroke lead over Australian veteran Peter O’Malley going into the weekend.

That impressed one of his playing partners, Australian Robert Allenby, who missed the cut after rounds of 75-73, but who still seemed to enjoy the front-row seat to Woods’ apparent resurgence.

“Probably in the last six months, that’s the best I’ve seen him play,” Allenby said in the scorers’ area while Woods was mobbed by autograph seekers. “I’ve seen him at his absolute best … that was a different human being. He’s on his way back, that’s for sure.

“I think where he is right now is good enough to win. I think you’ll find if he keeps going the way he is going, he’ll win over the weekend.”

Woods, who was at 9-under 135, thought Friday’s round might even have been better -- “it felt it could have been 8 or 9 deep.”

Asked how it felt to be atop a leaderboard again, Woods appeared to take some satisfaction of saying that perhaps he shouldn’t have been written off just yet.

“The headlines tell the whole story, don’t they? … They know all,” Woods said. “It is one of those things, just being patient. I’m playing like I am playing at home. It has finally come to the golf course in a tournament setting. It takes a little time but once it starts coming, the confidence starts building.”

That confidence just might see him end a two-year winless drought -- his last tournament victory came two years ago at Melbourne at the Australian Masters. Combined with his opening-round 68, Woods posted his best back-to-back rounds of the year.

It’s the first time he has led a tournament since the third round of the Chevron World Challenge last year, and the first time against a full field since the Australian Masters. Woods was tied for the first-round lead at The Barclays last year.

O’Malley, who is a member at The Lakes and birdied his last two holes, shot a 66. He was the No. 64 seed who beat Woods in the opening round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa in 2002.

Jason Day, who played alongside Woods and Allenby, had a 68 and was two behind. Bubba Watson, among eight Americans to came to the Australian Open to get ready for the Presidents Cup next week at Royal Melbourne, birdied his last three holes for a 70 and was three shots behind.

American Nick Watney faded on the front nine and shot 73, although he remained tied for fifth at 5-under 139. First-round leader Jarrod Lyle, with a 74 Friday, was among five tied with Watney.

A large crowd that packed into the knolls and dunes became louder the longer Woods stayed atop the leaderboard, and even some of the tournament officials appeared to get wrapped up in the day. At one point, they had his name spelled simply “Tiger” on a leaderboard.

For Woods, it was a strange sight.

“It feels good,” he said of his name listed first. “It feels good to be there playing properly.”

Woods repeated that he has been hitting the ball this well in practice at home in south Florida, and based on the other times he has changed swings, he referred to the process of getting confidence in practice and eventually taking it to the golf course.

“That’s progress. That’s what happens,” he said. “And once it starts coming, the confidence is building.”

The Americans lost one of their players at the Australian Open when Hunter Mahan withdrew Friday morning because of pain in the back of his right shoulder that wouldn’t go away. Rather than risking it, Mahan decided to take a few days of rest. He said he expects to be playing next week at Melbourne.

The Presidents Cup captains both made the cut. U.S. head Fred Couples shot 74 and was at 3 under, six behind Woods. International leader Greg Norman also shot 74 and was at 1 over, 10 behind. Matt Kuchar, one of Couples’ team members, failed to make the weekend, shooting 73 Friday to miss by one stroke.

Woods was among the controversial selections by Couples to the U.S. team, especially because he hasn’t won in two years and rarely has put himself in contention. But it was a day like Friday, on the back of the opening round, that made any questions about him look moot.

“It’s a great pick,” Day said. “A few people questioned it. He was not playing that great a couple of months ago, but he has certainly turned it around. Overall, his game is looking good for next week.”

Woods looked like he was enjoying himself Friday as he soaked up the adulation of thousands of Sydney golf fans who haven’t seen him play a tournament in Australia’s largest city since 1996.

“It was great,” Woods said. “Yesterday and today, playing with two Aussies, that helps. Everyone is kind of into it. The crowds were just rooting for me. It was a fun atmosphere to be part of. “

 


Comments

Jeremytvickers

Glad we are all big tiger fans writing these posts but just can't help myself from responding to mr. Williams comments. Just one question...what other golfers, past or present, would be held to your "standard" or definition of being "truly back" by having to win...MULTIPLE times in a DOMINANT way" before u are convinced that they are "back"? Ur standard for tiger just shows how GREAT tiger truly is and also how we all have been spoiled by being privileged enough to watch tiger reinvent the game and rewrite the history books over the past 15+ years. I would be willing to bet that ur definition of being "truly back" for tiger is much loftier than for ALL other golfer in the world and that simply isn't fair...especially since u say u are a tiger fan...do u recall what tiger did when he decided to make major swing changes in 03-04 after completely destroying the tour and record books in 2002? Come on fellow fan, give our man a chance to be human for a few years before he begins his next stint of shocking the world and making all of our jaws drop with every shot once again. HE is BACK...whether he wins this week or not...the tiger roar is coming...get ready. It is going to b exciting!

hammer14u

It's good to see Tiger back, and no one is a bigger fan of his than me. But it's one event, that's not even over yet. In order for us to say that his truly back, he needs to win multiple times and in a dominate way. So lets see how he does at the President's Cup, before we all go crazy. But it is nice to see!

theboxx1613

It's good to see Tiger back on his game because people were thinking he was done. To the readers an athlete is just that and Tiger Woods is an Great Athlete Tiger will break the record of 18 majors and no other Golfer will break it this man is Great anyone who is spoke of in the same breath as Jack, Arnie and Gary thats a great Golfer. In life mistakes are made it takes a great Man to overcome a mistake he made let's keep Tiger Tiger Woods the Golfer.

hubertchevre

Come on , Tiger !! Show them all you're back !!