Tiger Woods faltered late for the second time in three days as Hideki Matsuyama of Japan played like the Tiger of old on Saturday in building a seven-stroke lead in the Hero World Challenge at Albany Resort in New Providence, Bahamas.
Woods, coming off a 7-under-par 65 in his first tournament in 16 months, birdied four of his first five holes and was near the top of the leaderboard after shooting 4-under 32 on the front nine.
However, the 40-year-old Woods made two bogeys on the back nine and then hit into the water on the 18th hole for the second time in three days en route to a double-bogey 6 and a round of 70.
Still, tournament host Woods, a 14-time major champion, was not completely unhappy despite being 11 shots back in 10th place in the 17-player event that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.
“The biggest surprise is that with all the time off I was able to get into the flow of things quickly all three days,” said Woods, who is coming from two back procedures after he last played in the Wyndham Championship in August 2015. “Unfortunately, it didn’t continue for two of the three days.
“But I’m so happy to be back out here and competing that this level with these guys, and fighting. I missed it. I’ve been able to stay focused despite dealing with Hero and the other sponsors. I was able to switch over (to golf) and it feels great.”
Matsuyama, who has won three times in his last four starts around the world and finished second in the other, carded his second 65 of the tournament, including a hole-out for eagle from 96 yards on the seventh hole.
The Japanese star, who has risen to No. 6 in the Official World Golf Ranking, has a 54-hole total of 19-under 197.
“Only Tiger could take a year-and-a-half off and put up the numbers he’s putting up this week,” said Matsuyama, whose recent victories came in the WGC-HSBC Champions, the Japan Open and the Taiheiyo Masters. said. “I don’t care how many strokes I’m leading over him, I still worry about him, fear him.”
“I can’t really think about the lead because everyone in the field can shoot eight or nine under. So I just have to keep my head down, keep grinding and do the best I can. … The eagle at seven was huge. I played well. Glad to get the score in I did. I feel kind of lucky up until now.”
Dustin Johnson, the U.S. Open champion, stumbled to a double-bogey 6 on the last hole and shot 72 to fall into a tie for second with Henrik Stenson of Sweden, the British Open champion who had a 66.
Brandt Snedeker carded a 69 and is eight strokes behind in a tie for fourth with Matt Kuchar (71), while Rickie Fowler was another shot back in solo sixth after a 68 playing alongside Woods.
Jordan Spieth and first-round leader J.B. Holmes posted 70s and are 10 down in a tie for seventh with Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, who had a 73.
–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre