Tigers Terrific in Ireland
'I will say I played better today,' said Woods, who won this event in 1999. 'I felt better over all my shots today than I did yesterday. It's a crazy game. Sometimes you feel terrible and shoot low numbers; other times you feel great and shoot a high number. That's the way the game is. I certainly did feel better today.'
Steve Lowery, Woods' playing partner during round two, shot a 5-under 67 to finish three shots off the pace at 11-under-par 133 alongside David Toms. Retief Goosen was one shot further back at 10-under-par 134.
Woods carried a one-shot lead over Lowery and Toms after the opening round but the advantage had vanished as several of his competitors posted low scores in the morning at Mount Juliet Estate.
The top player in the world was slow getting started and was left with a difficult third shot after his approach at the par-5 fifth stopped just short of a bunker protecting the front of the green. However, Woods chipped his third shot over the sand inside two feet of the cup for his first birdie of the day.
At the par-4 seventh, Woods knocked his second shot within 15 feet and drained the putt for birdie. He picked up another birdie at the very next hole to make the turn at 10-under.
Woods rolled in a four-foot putt for birdie at the 10th and regained the outright lead with a birdie at the 12th after he hit his second shot to five feet.
Woods opened a two-shot lead with a birdie at the 14th to reach 13-under and after Kelly pulled within one with a stretch of three consecutive birdies starting at the 15th, Woods again pulled away with a birdie at the par-5 17th.
'Today I definitely drove the ball a little bit better,' said the 26-year-old. 'I felt a little more confident with my tee shots today. I hit my irons like I did yesterday and I putted like I did yesterday. All in all, I'm very pleased with the way I'm playing.'
Kelly, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, burst out of the gate with four birdies over the first five holes before he found trouble with a bogey at the sixth. Kelly responded with four birdies on the back nine to finish alone in second and is eager to play alongside Woods on Saturday.
'It will be great,' said Kelly. 'It's just playing my game and he's going to do what he's going to do, and I can't really fight him. I've got to just play as well as I can and see what happens after that.'
British Open winner Ernie Els collected six birdies and one bogey for a round of 67. The South African moved to 9-under-par 135 alongside Stuart Appleby and Gary Evans.
'I played really well,' said Els. 'I'm in contention but it all depends on what Tiger does. It seems like he's starting to make some birdies now.'
David Duval matched his best round of the year with a 7-under 65.
'I'm getting a lot of confidence back that I need to get back and that's coming from having success out on the golf course,' said Duval. 'I executed everything I was trying to do. That makes me feel good about today.'
Duval was joined by Rocco Mediate, Davis Love III, Stephen Leaney, Bob Estes, Justin Leonard, Chris DiMarco and Vijay Singh in a tie for ninth at 8-under-par 136.
Mike Weir, who won this event in 2000 at Valderrama, was one shot further back at 7-under-par 137 alongside Michael Campbell, Angel Cabrera, Kevin Sutherland and Niclas Fasth.
Full-field scores from WGC-American Express Championship
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x