BETHESDA, Md. – Tiger Woods stood in the pine straw at the par-5 sixth hole at Congressional. Surveying the lie on his 15th hole of the day, he quickly made up his mind.
'Joe, how far to the front?' Woods asked caddie Joe LaCava.
It was a daring question. With a pond guarding the front right of the green and a tree-lined left side, Woods would have to execute a perfect shot or drown his well-played round in shallow water.
Woods paced off the number – 225 yards – and double-checked his yardage book. A few tense seconds later, Woods had his club, pulled the trigger and hit exactly the shot he wanted. He landed in the front left bunker.
Though he made par, Woods put himself in position to score without fear. Let the critics of Sean Foley and his teachings scoff, but that shot proved Woods has total faith in what his coach is preaching.
Woods took that faith in his game and shot 3-under 68 Friday in the second round of the AT&T National, jumping into contention in triple-digit temperatures.
The stats don't reflect the quality of his round. He hit 11 greens, but was just off the fringe on three more. He found just half of the 14 fairways, but managed the trouble by making just one bogey.
On a course set up more like a U.S. Open than the one staged here a year ago, it was a great round.
A pair of pars early set up his biggest moment of the day. At Nos. 14 and 15, Woods found deep rough off the tee – particularly thick, even for this week. He laid up both times, albeit unintentionally the first, essentially turning each hole into an 80-yard par 2. Both times, Woods made a pitch-perfect swing, landing just past the pin and spinning back to secure the par.
A hole later, Woods striped a drive at the par-5 16th, then got home easily in two. Facing a double-breaking, 48-foot putt for eagle, Woods jammed it home and punctuated it with a fist pump.
'I hit two good wedge shots in there after two poor drives and gave myself a couple of good looks, made those,' he said, 'and then I was rewarded for all that hard work at the next hole with an eagle.'
Woods made his only hiccup on the day at the par-4 first after hitting a poor tee shot when a fan sneezed in his backswing.
He overcame the bogey with a pair of birdies on short par 4s in the final five holes. Both times, Woods took advantage of his stinger long-iron tee shot and stuck his approach in tight. At the fifth, he converted from 8 feet. At the eighth, he left a tap-in.
Had Woods been able to combine this 2-under total for 36 holes with his first two rounds at The Olympic Club, Woods would now have 15 majors. Instead, he must spend the next two days grinding for PGA Tour win No. 74 in a setting which deserves the title ‘major-light.’
'It's like an Open, you probably have maybe one or two flags you can fire at all day,' he said, 'and most of the day, you're firing away from pins and giving yourself 15, 20 feet all day.'