BELEK, Turkey (Reuters) - Tiger Woods showed precisely why he is the world’s number one golfer on Friday, producing a swashbuckling tournament-best 63 to burst into title contention after the second round of the inaugural Turkish Airlines Open.
The 14-times major winner’s buccaneering nine-under-par effort left him one stroke behind leading quartet, European money-list leader Henrik Stenson (68), Frenchman Victor Dubuisson (65), Justin Walters of South Africa (66) and Britain’s Ian Poulter (66).
Tiger’s tail seemed to have been tweaked by a late blunder on the final hole of his rain-delayed opening round earlier in the day.
The American dunked his second shot into the water at the 18th and marched off the green with a disappointing bogey six.
Woods only had enough time for a quick snack before he was back out on the first tee for the second round and he looked like a man on a mission as he charged to the turn in 30 strokes with five birdies.
The 37-year-old kept his foot firmly down on the gas on the back nine, four more birdies delighting the crowd on the Mediterranean coast of Antalya.
”It was a round that could have been really special,“ Woods told reporters after finishing on 11-under 133 on a sun-kissed day at the penultimate event of the European season. ”I made some putts but I also probably missed four putts inside 10 feet.
”We are going to have to continue to go low here the way the course is set up and with how soft it’s playing. It’s so receptive that it lends itself to a lot of birdies.
“You can be so aggressive, the ball’s not rolling out, it’s not bouncing out, so no matter what iron you have to the green, you fire right at the flags.”
Woods’s performance was even more remarkable because he was up at 3.30 in the morning to watch his college football alma mater Stanford play Oregon on television.
“It was one of those things when we looked like we were going to go up 29-7...and then a kick goes their way and next thing you know, they’ve got a chance to do it again,” said the American.
“I‘m like, ‘I’ve got to go and warm up for this tournament...can you guys just kind of run the ball out and run the clock out?, and they finally did,” he added, referring to Stanford’s 26-20 victory.
Woods will play alongside Stenson for the third day running on Saturday but the Swede is worried his niggling wrist injury could give way at any moment.
”This is the third week I’ve played with it and it’s getting worse,“ he said. ”I‘m just hanging in there day-by-day and hope it keeps together.
“It’s not in a great state. I have inflammation there and I strained something else yesterday as well before I teed off.”
Stenson, who once almost completely disrobed out on the course, took his shoes and socks off to wade in to a lake and splash his ball out 100 yards down the fairway at the long fourth.
”This time at least I didn’t have to take the full kit off,“ he said. ”It was sitting up there and I managed to get it back in play and save par so that was good.
“It’s enough to strip down once, we know that much. I will try and avoid that again in the future.”
Poulter, who was runner-up to American Dustin Johnson at the WGC-Champions Tournament in Shanghai last week, said he was looking forward to another exciting weekend.
”I have eliminated many silly mistakes,“ said Europe’s Ryder Cup hero, ”but I‘m still making the birdies so that’s definitely going to keep me in the hunt.
“I‘m in the mix and that’s always good fun. There are some great names at the top and it’s certainly going to be a fun weekend.”
On the evidence of Friday’s display, however, there is little doubt over the man to beat.
“Tiger is playing another game, a different sport,” said Dubuisson.
Editing by Justin Palmer