POTOMAC, Md. — That was more like it.
Tiger Woods set off his own July 4th fireworks Friday in the second round of the Quicken Loans National, torching TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm with 7 birdies and signing for a 5-under-par 65. That left him at 5 under through 36 holes and just as importantly, it left him feeling pleased about his game and not searching for any answers.
Woods also is in touch with the leaders as he seeks his 80th PGA Tour title and first since winning the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
“I think as the year’s progressed, I think I’m not that far away from putting it together where I can win,” Woods said.
He nearly put everything together with his 65, the round he’s been looking for of late, especially after missing the cut in the U.S. Open and finishing in a tie for 23rd in the Memorial, where he experienced one of the worst putting weeks of his career. And after a dull, so-so start Thursday, Woods found some magic in his bag alongside the new putter he broke out this week.
This was vintage Tiger — hitting 10 of 14 fairways (with two just a pace off), 13 of 18 greens, controlling his ball throughout and gaining confidence as the day grew hotter. The loudest roars springing from the large galleries in step with Woods came when he chipped in for birdie from 30 yards on the 18th hole — his ninth — and when he walked in another birdie from 26 feet on the third.
And a day after his longest converted putt came from 9 feet, Woods knocked in birdie putts from 26, 24, 19, 16, 3 and 2 feet. The four putts he made that were longer than 15 feet were the most he’s made in a round on the PGA Tour since the 2014 Honda Classic.
Thus, the new putter — a TaylorMade TP Ardmore 3 mallet that replaced his longtime alley, the Scotty Cameron Newport 2 blade — has a permanent home inside his bag.
“It has a little bit more toe hang, so it’s releasing a little bit more than my old Scotty,” Woods said. “I can feel it swing in my practice strokes. It’s a good feeling for me. I don’t like blocking putts. I like feeling that toe move and cover that ball. It felt good today.”
It felt good right from the get-go, as Woods canned a 24-footer on the 10th, his first hole of the day.
“I hit a good putt,” Woods said. “That was something I did all day yesterday. I hit good putts, started the ball on line, and with the right speed, and they just didn’t go in. So what? If I just continue to do that, which I haven’t done in probably about four tournaments, they’re going to start falling.
“And today they fell.”
For much of the year that has reached 11 starts, Woods has started slowly and he’s put himself behind the proverbial 8-ball heading into the weekend. Now he’s in position where he won’t need that spectacular round Saturday to get into Sunday contention, such as when he shot 7-under 65 in the third round of The Players Championship to make up much of his 14-shot deficit after 36 holes. He eventually tied for 11th.
No, he’s in the position similar to where he was in the Valspar Championship, where he started the third round just two shout out of the lead. There, he finished in a tie for second.
The heat of contention will ramp up Saturday along with the heat Mother Nature will deal up. Woods knows he’ll have to remain patient, keep the putter rolling and get the crowds roaring.
“It’s going to be a tough weekend,” Woods said. “It’s going to be long grinds. It will be hotter than now, which is scary. It will be over 100 degrees and it will be a long weekend mentally and physically.
“I’m in a good position right now.”