Brandel Chamblee, who once opined that Tiger Woods’ golf swing resembled “a dead mackerel wrapped in newspaper,” now can’t stop gushing about how well the 14-time major champion is slugging the ball.
Woods had the Golf Channel analyst singing his praises after the former world No. 1 grinded out a 1-over 71 to make the cut easily under extremely difficult conditions in Friday’s second round of the Honda Classic. In doing so, Tiger wowed Chamblee with his clubhead speed, especially.
“I never thought I would see Tiger Woods play the kind of golf he’s played the last couple of days,” Chamblee gushed about the play of the 42-year-old who will enter the weekend at PGA National at 1-over, just four shots off the pace set by 36-hole co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark.
Last week, Chamblee noted, Woods swung at 118 m.p.h., not that different from the 124 m.p.h. Tiger recorded in 2008, when he won four tour events.
“He swung 124 m.p.h. yesterday and 124 m.p.h. today,” said Chamblee. “I never, ever thought I’d see Tiger Woods do that again.”
Woods overcame a waterlogged double-bogey on the par-3 15th hole followed by a bogey on No. 16 that put him at 2-over by coming back with a rare birdie on the tough 17th. After escaping the dreaded Bear Trap, Tiger drained a four-foot par putt to cap an adventurous day and get into contention heading into the weekend.
“I think I’m four back right now,” said Tiger, who ended his second round in a 10-way tie for 14th. “So I’m right there in the ballgame.”
Pretty, pretty good for a guy playing in his third PGA Tour event of 2018 following a lumbar fusion last year and who struggled last week in missing the cut at the Genesis Open.
On a sunny but blustery day on home turf a short drive from his Jupiter, Fla., residence, Woods got off to an uneven start when, even with an iron off the tee on the par-4 second hole, he hit an errant shot into a hazard. With the ball unplayable, Woods took a drop and a penalty stroke, and was able to minimize the damage by jarring a 10-foot bogey putt.
He followed a birdie on the par-4 fourth with four pars and made the turn after drilling a 24-footer for birdie.
With the usual fan frenzy that accompanies any Tiger appearance, the star of the show got the crowd amped up when he saved a par with a 13-foot putt after finding the rough off the 11th tee. A signature fist pump ensued.
The Bear Trap nearly derailed his round when Woods rinsed his tee shot on No. 15 and ended up with a double bogey. A three-putt bogey on the par-4 16th was next, but Tiger rebounded with that birdie on 17, surrounded by water and the track’s most difficult hole.
There was no sign of the chipping yips that Chamblee once claimed could end Tiger’s career, and needing only 28 putts, his overall game was solid. But the most impressive shot by Chamblee’s standards was Woods’ 361-yard drive on the par-4 10th.
“The swing of the day” was “the longest tee shot hit today,” Chamblee said of the drive that found the left fairway — one of eight fairways Woods hit. “Yesterday he hit one on this hole 346, which was the longest tee shot.”
Chamblee’s colleague, Kelly Tilghman chimed in, noting that the blast on No. 10 was Woods’ longest drive on tour since 2014.
“It was a good one,” Woods said of the drive.
Tiger’s iron game was strong as well, as he found 11 of 18 greens with his “stellar” play, said Chamblee.
Even Woods’ putting had Chamblee waving the pom poms.
“At his best, he was the best putter, well, everywhere,” said Chamblee. “He was miraculous, and, well, he looked very much like that the last couple of days.”
Much golf left to play, but we have to agree with Chamblee that vintage Tiger Woods is pretty much fun.
“I feel like I’m right there. I’m right where I can win a golf tournament,” Tiger said. “You know, four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.”