One of the biggest cheers at the Hero World Challenge came from seeing the name Tiger Woods moved to the top of the leaderboard.
It just wasn’t there for long.
In another impressive showing in his latest comeback from back surgeries, Woods built on a solid start with a 31 on the front nine at Albany Golf Club that briefly gave him the lead Friday. He stalled on the back nine with a pair of bogeys and not enough birdie chances, and he settled for a four-under-par 68.
“Successful,” Woods said, when asked to describe his round in one word.
When the second round ended, Woods was five shots behind Charley Hoffman, who had a 63 that might have sent fans into a frenzy if they had been watching.
Hoffman made 12 birdies, closing with five in a row . He was at 12-under 132 and had a three-shot lead over Jordan Spieth (67) and Tommy Fleetwood (69). Hoffman made only one par over his final 12 holes to go along with eight birdies and three bogeys.
But this week, a holiday exhibition with an 18-man field and no cut, is all about Woods. That much was obvious after the round.
Hoffman spoke to no more than five reporters about his round, while a dozen others were about 30 feet away surrounding Joe LaCava, Woods’ caddie, looking for any additional morsel about his round.
Woods delivered plenty on his own. He opened with three birdies in four holes. He made three good pars, one of them having to chip up the slope from a thin lie on No. 8, and then really raised hopes with his eagle on the par-five ninth, set up by a three-wood into the wind from 265 yards.
“Hit up in the air and took something off of it and cut it back into the wind,” he said.
He made the 20-foot putt to reach 8 under. Behind him, Hoffman made bogey on the par-3 eighth. Woods was alone in the lead, and the workers at the white scoreboard to the left of the green quickly moved his name to the top as some 100 people — that constitutes a large gallery this week — began cheering. There was a smattering of “He’s back!” and even a few mentions about the Masters.
Woods missed it. He was on his way to the 10th tee. By the time he saw a leaderboard, it was getting crowded at the top with Hoffman making his run, Spieth chipping in for birdie and setting up another with a tough chip, and Fleetwood overcoming a double bogey-bogey start to his back nine with three straight birdies.
“I saw somewhere on the back nine, I think there was like five guys at eight under or something like that, something weird like that,” Woods said.
Woods didn’t make a bogey until a three-putt from 30 feet on the 12th hole. The greens were quicker, and that’s where he struggled. He had an eagle attempt from just short of the 15th green, about 45 feet away, that he ran 15 feet by the hole. He missed that for a three-putt par.
He still played the par-five holes in four under, a five-shot improvement from the opening round.
“I said at the beginning of the week, I hope he wins,” Hoffman said. “It’s great for the game of golf. Hopefully, I can stop him from winning this week. But anytime he’s in contention, or even playing the golf tournaments, it brings a buzz to golf that we all need.”
Byrum wins Champions’ qualifying tournament
Tom Byrum eagled the first hole of a playoff with Tommy Tolles on Friday to win the PGA Tour Champions’ National Qualifying Tournament at TPC Scottsdale.
A day after tying the tournament record with a 10-under 61, Byrum had a five-under 65 to match Tolles at 19-under 265 on the Champions Course. Byrum eagled No. 17 for a share of the lead, and won the playoff with a seven-footer. Tolles closed with a 66.
Byrum and Tolles earned full exemptions for next season along with Kent Jones, Tim Petrovic, and re-instated amateur Ken Tanigawa. Jones (64) was third at 18 under, and Tim Petrovic (72) and Tanigawa (70) tied for fourth at 17 under.
Leishman’s 65 good for lead in Australia
Marc Leishman took advantage of an early start Friday to shoot a 7-under 65 and move into a share of the second-round lead at the Australian PGA Championship.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia was six strokes behind after a 71 while Adam Scott missed the cut by two shots after bogeying four of six holes on the back nine for a 74 at Royal Pines in Gold Coast.
Leishman is at 12-under 132 at Royal Pines and tied with Adam Bland, who shot 66 on a morning of good scoring conditions — soft greens and little wind. Greg Chalmers (66), was two strokes behind in third.
Atwal leads Mauritius Open
Arjun Atwal shot a one-under 70 for a one-shot lead after two rounds of the Mauritius Open on Friday. Atwal led by four after a course-record 62 on the opening day and is at 10 under overall.
Three men are just behind him at nine under heading into the weekend. South African pair Dylan Frittelli (66) and Louis de Jager (67) and England’s Laurie Canter (66) put the pressure on the Indian at the top of the leaderboard at Heritage Golf Club in Bel Ombre, Mauritius .
A group of five players are another shot back at eight under. Louis Oosthuizen is tied for 10th at seven under. He and Frittelli are the only players ranked in the top 100 in the world playing in Mauritius.