Hoffman builds 5-shot lead as Woods fades in Bahamas
ABS-CBN Sports on Dec 03, 2017 08:02 AM
Tiger Woods wipes sweat from his face before teeing off on the fifth hole at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament at Albany Golf Club in Nassau, Bahamas, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Dante Carrer)
By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press
NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Charley Hoffman handled the blustery conditions for a five-shot lead in the Hero World Challenge as Tiger Woods fell 10 shots behind.
The wind was the strongest it has been all week at Albany Golf Club, and it showed in the scores Saturday. Hoffman had a 2-under 70 that matched the best score of the day, and only three other players broke par.
The wind also took the air out of any hopes that Woods, playing for the first time in 10 months following a fourth back surgery, would get into the mix at his holiday tournament. Instead, he was blown away early and battled late for a 75.
Woods opened with four bogeys in seven holes. He went 11 consecutive holes without hitting a green. He didn't have a birdie putt on four of the par 5s he played. And he didn't make a birdie until the 14th green, removing his cap to acknowledge the crowd and holding up a finger to indicate his first birdie.
"It's ridiculous it took me 14 holes to make a birdie," Woods said. "At that time, I'd already played four par 5s and nothing happened. Just one of those days. Anything I did right ended up in a bad spot, and then everything I did wrong, it was really bad."
Hoffman hit his share, sending his tee shot far right into the bushes on a sand dune right of the 10th fairway. He took a penalty drop onto a sandy path and wound up with a double bogey that brought a half-dozen players back into the mix.
But not for long.
Hoffman closed with three birdies over his last five holes, including the 18th hole for the second straight day. That put him at 14-under 202.
Justin Rose, an Albany resident, had a 71 and joined British Open champion Jordan Spieth (72) at 9-under 207.
Francesco Molinari of Italy was another shot behind.
"I got lucky on some tee balls that didn't find the bushes and stayed in the sandy areas and I was able to sort of scrap it around," Hoffman said. "I'm going to have to handle my nerves a little better than I did today"
Woods was under pressure early. In his previous two rounds of 69 and 68, he was under par early in the round. This one started with a tee shot into the waste area, an approach the wind knocked down short of the green and a chip that was too strong, running 10 feet by and leading to a bogey.
Even his good shots didn't work out for him. Woods blistered a 3-wood from 278 yards into the wind and saw it run through the green into a tough lie. His chip didn't reach the green. His next chip ran 6 feet by the hole and he missed the par putt.
He bogeyed the next par 5 when he didn't play for a flyer out of the rough, went well long and was left in such a tough spot that he played away from the flag and his pitch went through the green to the fringe.
He already was 5 over for his round through 10 holes, and he did well not to drop any more shots until he made a pair of birdies late.
Woods began his round by giving a hug to his 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, who flew over from Florida. Even after a 75, he still managed to look at the big picture. He was hitting the ball well, his back felt strong and he at least feels as though he can contend.
"I think overall, I'm very happy with what's going on this week," Woods said. "There were a lot of questions that I had — I'm sure you guys have had — and I feel like I've come out on a good side."
But he made it clear he had fewer questions about his performance than the public.
"I knew how I was playing at home," he said. "I knew how I was hitting shots. I knew what was going on. Obviously, the very intelligent people out there didn't know."
This is the second straight year the 54-hole leader has built a cushion. Hideki Matsuyama led by seven shots last year and held on to beat Henrik Stenson.
It would be a great way for Hoffman to cap off a peculiar year. He hasn't won a tournament since the Texas Open in May 2016, but he was in the mix at the Masters and the U.S. Open and played on his first Presidents Cup team.
"To have a chance to win this great tournament, hopefully I can knock it off," Hoffman said.