Tiger Woods and Brandel Chamblee have had their well-documented differences over the past couple of months, but Friday at Sherwood Country Club, both men agreed it was a pretty good day for the world No. 1.
Woods was not a particularly generous host, as he fired a second-round 10-under 62 to take charge of his Northwestern Mutual World Challenge and leave his 17 star-studded guests looking up in admiration of the 36-hole leader’s 10-birdie, 0-bogey play.
"It was a clinic," Graeme McDowell told Reuters about his playing partner, who left the defending champion, who carded a respectable 67, in his dust as he tied the course record he set in 2007. "It was cool to see that kind of golf. He was under control. He hit it down the middle of every fairway."
Despite his own second-round 67, McDowell found himself six shots behind heading into the weekend in the unofficial no-cut tourney he has won twice. He was hardly the only competitor in awe of the way the frontrunner gave himself birdie putts on every hole and posted a score five shots lower than anyone else in the talent-laden field.
"Amazing what Tiger did out there," Matt Kuchar, who accompanied Woods during Thursday’s opening round, told reporters after posting a second straight 68.
"It's just some incredible golf," Kuchar said. "The rest of us, that four-under score is kind of a good barometer. That's some good quality playing. Ten under is an amazing round of golf. I'd certainly take two more rounds of four-under par."
Kuchar put Woods’ incredible day in perspective.
"I kind of felt sorry for Graeme," said Woods’ Presidents Cup teammate. "I saw he posted a five-under-par round, and it must have felt like it was two or three over. It's tough when you're paired with a guy like that. It makes you feel like you're not doing much. But the rest of us just go about our business."
Woods, at 11-under and with a two-shot lead over Zach Johnson, certainly had no complaints about day two. Well, maybe one, he said, when pressed.
"The putt on 17 wasn't very good. I blocked the hell out of that one," Woods said. "But other than that, it was a pretty good ball-striking day."
Yeah, not bad for a smiling Woods, who said about his stellar round that he started after a so-so stint on the practice range, but that he got going with a tee shot he stuck to within 15 feet on the par-3 third hole.
"It was the first swing I think I made, even during warm-up, that felt really good," said Woods, who has six wins in the nine other times he shot 62. "I tried to keep that feeling the rest of the day, and I did. I hit a lot of good shots after that."
Woods, who has won two of three times at Sherwood when he’s carded a round of 64 or lower, reminded listeners he had "two more rounds" before closing out 2013 with a sixth (unofficial) victory. Chamblee and Golf Channel’s other post-game analysts, Kelly Tilghman and Aaron Oberholser, however, were ready to hand Tiger his sixth World Challenge crown.
"A lot of also-rans on this Friday," said Kelly Tilghman after play wrapped up for the day and Woods, intentionally or not, declined the leader’s usually de rigueur post-round live interview with the golf network. "The day completely belonged to Tiger Woods, right out of the gate at No. 1."
Chamblee, who has called Woods "extraordinary" in the past but is now renowned for suggesting that (and kinda, but not quite, apologizing for) Tiger cheated in four high-profile rules breaches in 2013, could not gush enough about the play of his nemesis.
"Well, that’s pretty much how he ended yesterday," Chamblee said about Woods’ birdie start on the 342-yard, par-4 first. "With the hole location over on the right, a short iron in his hands, he stuffed it in there. The only difference is, yesterday he missed the putt, and today, well, he got things started off with a bang, a birdie at the first, and he would continue on."
So would Chamblee, with his flowery review of Woods’ game.
"This shot should have a bow on it," he said about a perfect sand shot on the par-5 13th. "Tiger woods coming out of a bunker after a birdie at 10, and a birdie at 11, makes another one at the 13th."
Woods’ abilities to read the greens on his de facto home course surrounded by mountains really had Chamblee singing his praises. He opined that so many of the other players, despite the fact that they’ve been playing the same courses as Woods for years, came from places with few hills, which led to some 50 putts on the low side all day.
Not for Woods, though.
"When you grow up in this area and you have a lot of experience at putting on greens that are embedded in the mountains, you tend to read them a little better," Chamblee remarked, as video of Woods drilling put after putt aired. "Tiger Woods, time and time again, not only did he have it on the high side, but he had this beautiful speed, dying-at-the-hole speed.
"So easy here to lose this on the low side," he said, as Woods’ ball did a victory lap before dropping. "Tiger’s got it on the high side, he’s got it on the perfect speed, so he gets to use 360 degrees of that hole.
"Good speed, great line and even though he misses this putt, he misses it on the high side, with beautiful speed," Chamblee said as he described another Tiger stroke.
"Tiger Woods, not only does he read putts better than anybody when he’s at his best," said Chamblee, "he executes at a level that you very rarely see in the history of the game of golf."
"Two best putters of all time, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, they get the speed right, they get the line right, and they die it at the hole," concluded Chamblee, who certainly was not the only one in the booth waving the TW pompoms.
Oberholser, who credited Woods’ new Nike VRS Covert 2.0 driver with helping him find all but one fairway (he also was 18 for 18 in greens in regulation), loved the way Tiger rolled his dimpled ball.
"This guy putts fast greens better than anybody I’ve ever known in my life. He used to practice on the hardwood floors at a gym at Stanford ... to just work on speed," said the winner of the 2006 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. "That’s how he used to putt, getting ready for the Masters greens ... [Friday], you could tell it paid off, all those hours he spent in the gym, working on his putter at Stanford."
With the two guys apparently out of puffery, Tilghman wrapped up the hyperbolic session, comparing Woods’ one round to his Tiger Slam days.
"Friday, reminiscent of the Tiger of 2000," she enthused. "Everything going his way in that round of 62."