Tiger Woods, a bit sleep-deprived after watching his beloved Stanford football team overtake Oregon early Friday morning Turkish time, shook off the rust and the bug he caught from his kids to fire a 9-under 63 in the second round of the Turkish Airlines Open.
Woods finished his rain-delayed first round with a 70 and had lunch before blistering the Montgomerie Maxx Royal course to the tune of nine birdies and no errors to pull within one stroke of 36-hole co-leaders Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter and two others. Continued solid play could mean the first European Tour win for the 14-time major champion since he captured the 2009 Australian Masters.
With his flat stick sizzling, Woods put on just the type of display his deep-pocketed hosts were hoping for when they invited him to compete in the no-cut, limited-field event that’s the third of four FedExCup-like matches in the Euro Tour’s Race to Dubai "Final Series."
Still, even with three straight birdies early on and two to finish, the $3 million man left a few out on the course.
"I played well today. I hit a lot of good shots and made some putts," Woods told reporters. "But I missed quite a few putts today that were within 10 feet so it could have been one of those really low, special rounds but I’ll take it."
Woods said prior to Thursday’s start that he had begun to get back into form after taking three weeks off between the Presidents Cup and last week’s exhibition match with Rory McIlroy. He was also trying to shake a nagging cold he contracted during his hiatus.
Friday, however, it was football that was on the mind of golf's superstar, when, what should have been a laugher for his alma mater, turned into a squeaker and had Woods glued to the TV since before dawn.
"Unfortunately, I had to stay longer watching the game than I wanted to," Woods, who jetted in from Asia in time to hit his intercontinental golf shot heard ‘round the world, told Bernie McGuire. "Kickoff was 3:30 a.m. [local time], but then that was no problem ... as my body is still on Singapore time, but it was one of those games where it looked we [Stanford] going up 29 -7. Next thing you know, Oregon comes back at us and I’m thinking, I have to go warm up for this tournament.
"So I’m saying, ‘Come on guys, can’t you just run the clock out?’ and they finally did."
Tiger needs a little come-from-behind magic of his own if he’s to run the clock out on Stenson (64, 68) and Poulter (66, 66), who are red hot as well and standing first and fourth, respectively, in the Race to Dubai standings. They’re also playing for more than bragging rights, as Poulter has wagered Stenson $100 at 10-1 odds that he’ll finish ahead of the reigning FedExCup champion.
There’s more to it than just the money, however; the loser would also have to take the winner out for a night on the town.
"I also said, 'Look, if I do manage to catch you and pass you, we will have a nice night out and you have to pour my drinks for the evening,'" Poulter said, according to Alex Miceli. "I think a thousand bucks isn’t an issue to him, but pouring my drinks all night might be a big problem."