With everyone busy discussing comeback man Tiger Woods and how well he has played so far, only a jaw-dropping effort from one among 17 of the world’s best golfers could have changed the narrative in the $3.5 million Hero World Challenge here.
On Friday, after Tiger produced a stunning 31 on the front nine to briefly hold a one-shot lead at eight-under following a 20-foot ‘eagle’ on the ninth hole, Charlie Hoffman scripted something way
above the ordinary.
The 27th-ranked aspirant made his presence felt by firing 12 birdies for a card of nine-under 63 — one off the course record set by Justin Rose in 2015. He now leads at 12-under, three ahead of former World No. 1 Jordan Spieth and overnight leader Tommy Fleetwood.
The day also saw defending champion Hideki Matsuyama escape a potential four-stroke penalty for repairing a divot with his foot on the 18th hole. His explanation that he had no intention to improve the lie of the ball was accepted. Like Matsuyama, Patrick Reed also shot a 66 but after spoiling his card with a double-bogey on the 18th!
Tiger Woods: Back causing no issues at all
Hoffman’s spectacular run coincided with Tiger slowing down as he struggled with the “speed of the green” and three-putted the 12th and missed a par-putt on the 18th.
Aiming to win his first title since the 2016 Valero Texas Open, Hoffman signed off with five successive birdies on a day when he made only three pars and as many bogies.
Hoffman, who, at the start of the event, hoped Tiger would win this week, said, “It’s great for the game of golf. Hopefully I can stop him from winning this week, but anytime he’s in contention or even playing the golf tournament brings a buzz to golf that we all need. We need him out here, we want him out here. First and foremost, I just want him to be healthy for the rest of his life.
“We’re all cheering for Tiger to play great golf. 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,” said the 40-year-old.
Before Hoffman’s stupendous work-in-progress was noticed, Tiger threatened to burn the course with some perfect drives, flawless approach and measured putting. However, after being nine-under after 11 holes, two dropped strokes over a birdie-less last seven holes came as a disappointment from Tiger.
Starting at three-under, Tiger shot three birdies on the first four holes and caught up with Fleetwood who was yet to tee-up.
For someone playing only his fourth event in 27 months, Tiger reproduced his magic of old with 3-wood strike that he later described as the “standout shot easily by far” to land on the ninth green. “That was a 265 front, hit up in the air and took something off of it and cut in back into the wind.” He then buried an eagle-putt — his first since the second round of the 2015 Wyndham Championship.
A birdie on the 11th took him to nine-under but Tiger continued to misread the green-speed that “seemed to be like a foot faster. I blew most of them well past the hole and made a few coming back,” said the man who described his second round as “successful”.
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