What’s a little heat and humidity to an athlete with zero body fat? With Friday’s temperatures hovering around the 100-degree mark and a heat index of 104 by the time he dropped his final putt of the day at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., Tiger Woods brushed aside any concerns about playing conditions.
“That's why I train, that's why I run all those miles. If you're carrying a little bit of body fat, it's going to be a little insulation out there,” Woods told reporters after carding a 3-under 68 in Friday’s second round to put himself into contention for the weekend at the AT&T National. “This is when fitness does help, and I figured that's one of the reasons why I've had the success I've had in the elements.”
In addition to crediting his training regimen for helping him remain cool, calm, and collected on a typical summer day in our nation’s capital, Woods noted that the sauna-like conditions were similar to those he dealt with daily.
“I live in it,” he said. “I live in Florida, so it's not quite this hot, but it's definitely more humid than this every day.”
It’s a mantra Woods has intoned for years. “It's warmer than Florida but nowhere near as humid which is nice,” he said back in August 2007 after the first round of the PGA Championship he eventually won. “That's one of the reasons why you run all those miles out here in the heat and stay in decent shape.”
Friday in Bethesda, Woods mentioned his turn at Southern Hills Country Club, where he fired a 7-under 63 in his second round on the way to chalking up his 13th of 14 major championships. He said he trained hard to be able to weather elements like the excruciating heat that blanketed Tulsa, Okla., that week.
“I think it's one of the reasons why I had success at Southern Hills, because I felt physically fit, didn't have a problem with it,” Woods said. “I've played some of my ‑‑ some good tournaments over the years in Malaysia and other places where it's hot, and certainly fitness, running all those miles and lifting all those weights, it comes into play when you get days like this, and consecutive days like this.”
Woods, who drained a 50-foot putt for an eagle on the par-5 16th Friday, will put his fitness to the test during the weekend as well, as the mercury is expected to reach the century mark on Saturday and cool off to the high 90s for Sunday’s finale.
About that eagle putt, which helped Woods head into the weekend at 2-under, just three shots off the pace of clubhouse leaders Brendon de Jonge, Jimmy Walker, and Robert Garrigus? Woods said the double-breaker up the hill was a tester.
“It's hard left and then just want to feed back a couple balls to the right,” he said. “I was waiting for it to feed back because it was hanging, hanging, hanging, and then it just fell right in.”
It wasn’t just that putt that helped Woods play himself into the mix. He made some clutch pars to save his round as well.
“The pars at 14 and 15 were something I needed to have happen,” said Woods. “I hit two good wedge shots in there after two poor drives and gave myself a couple good looks, made those, and then I rewarded all that hard work at the next hole with an eagle.”
Woods, by the way, acknowledged an unlikely source as the reason he needed only 27 putts on Friday.
“I felt comfortable. I felt very good about what I'm doing,” he said about his work on the greens. “Notah Begay and I were working on a few things the other day and liked what I was doing. Today I felt very comfortable.”
Begay, in the field this week as well but unlikely to make the cut, was Woods’ roommate at Stanford. The two have remained good buddies and will be among several PGA and LPGA stars who’ll play in the fifth annual Notah Begay III Challenge in August. The charity tourney benefits Begay’s foundation, which serves low-income Native American youth at risk for childhood obesity and diabetes.