When Tiger Woods made the turn with Chris Paul during Wednesday’s pro-am, it marked the first time Woods would play the final nine holes at Sedgefield Country Club.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ star, who has played the course in the past, was the one giving the 14-time major winner advice on putts.
Just two days later, Tiger and the back nine seem to be getting along just fine.
Woods followed Thursday’s 6-under-par 64 with a 5-under-par 65 on Friday, and he largely owes his co-leader status to the 3,700 yards between the 10th tee box and the grandstands at the 18th green.
On Thursday, he shot a three-under 32 on the back nine, which he played first. Then, on Friday, Woods sunk birdies on 12 and 13, salvaged a par after a rough tee shot on 14 and then nailed a drive onto the fairway on the 15th hole.
“It was a perfect 3-iron for me,” said Woods of his following approach shot on the 545-yard par-5. “I was trying to dump the ball in the center of the green and move on.”
Instead, his iron shot bounced just a few feet from the cup and settled 10.5 feet uphill of the hole. As Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka took their shots – both chips from off the green – Woods took refuge in a shady alley between a TV tower and set of bleachers. For a few moments, he disappeared from sight and from the mob of fans screaming his name.
Then Woods stepped out of the shadows, buried his eagle putt and began the walk to the 16th tee box.
Woods would close out the back nine with three consecutive pars to finish with a four-under 31. His only poor shot outside of the drive on 14 was his tee shot on 16 that clung to the hillside grass above a bunker. Woods proceeded to plant a chip within 18 inches of the cup.
A so-so performance on the first nine holes that featured two bogeys and three birdies wasn’t a disaster by any means. Woods’ game featured solid iron play, but he had six two-putts on the front nine and a shaky three-putt on the first hole. Make no mistake, it was Friday’s back nine that propelled Tiger to the top of the leaderboard.
And those putts fell on Thursday and Friday because of the tips Tiger got from a Tuesday practice round with Davis Love III.
“I learned a lot playing with Davis,” Woods said. “I’ve only seen this golf course on TV, and I’ve never seen how much movement these greens have.”
That advice included which irons to hit off certain tees and the speed of the greens, but Love seemed a bit more skeptical when asked Thursday about his round with Woods.
“I gave him a bunch of information that was pretty much useless,” said Love, who sits within a shot of the lead.
Tiger’s scorecard suggests otherwise.