Golf

Tiger conquers Monster but not leaders

Despite a bogey-free 67 in the second round, Tiger Woods still can't catch the leaders.
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Robert Lusetich

After more than 20 years of covering everything from election campaigns to the Olympic Games, Robert Lusetich turned his focus to writing about his first love: golf. He is author of Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger's Most Tumultuous Season. Follow him on Twitter.

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DORAL, FLA.

Tiger Woods shot a bogey-free 67 and lost ground on the leaders at the Cadillac Championship on Friday.

Doral, a Blue Monster?

Not so much.

Sorry, Dorothy, but it’s no longer 1985 — when Mark McCumber won here with a score of 4 under par.

Unless the wind howls, one of the most feared courses in professional golf becomes friendlier than Sulley from “Monsters, Inc.”

Woods, at 5 under at the midway point, started the day six shots behind Adam Scott and Jason Dufner. Woods played well, yet finished seven shots behind Bubba Watson after the mercurial left-hander came within one shot of the course record.

Watson, playing alongside Justin Rose, shot a second-round 62 to become the tournament leader. Rose had a 64. Taking advantage of conditions tamer than they’d been on the first day, the pair made 17 birdies and an eagle between them.

“I still don’t like this golf course,” Watson said, only half-jokingly. This golf course doesn’t really suit me.

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“But we all were just feeding off each other, having fun, joking around, picking on each other, and somehow we made putts — and at the end of the day we shot a pretty good number.”

Watson, who said he’s shot 59 “about 10 times” before and 58 once outside of competition, is the original cat on a hot, tin roof. He’s fidgety and has the nervous energy levels of a roomful of 5-year-old boys on sugar highs.

“Today I talked about so many different things with my caddie,” Watson said, “he’s like, ‘Are you even focused on golf?’

“It’s like, 'Not really.' ”

Watson was asked whether he’d sought help from one of the many “mental coaches” who’ve hung their shingles out on the PGA Tour.

“No, nobody will take the time to help me,” he said. “That’s a lot of work.

“It’s always a fight in my head.”

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A fight he won, at least for one day.

For Woods, the battle is still long, though he’d like to believe the end is near.

He didn’t do much wrong in the second round, but he needs to do more right if he’s to keep up with the Watsons, or the Scotts, or the Roses, all of whom are double digits under par.

Woods hit nine fairways — and, apart from a pull hook off the 12th, the misses were small — and 14 greens in regulation.

He took 28 putts, but left a lot of birdies out there.

“This is the highest score I could have shot today, for sure,” Woods said. “It could have been pretty low today.

“It certainly could be had, the par-5s are all reachable for the long hitters today.

“You drive the ball well on most of the holes, you’re going to have some short irons in there and you can take advantage of it.”

I asked Woods why the monster had been taken out of Doral.

He said that when Raymond Floyd redid the course in the mid-‘90s, the bunkers were placed at about 280 yards, which then could be carried only by the longest of hitters.

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“Most of the courses we play, it’s 310 to 320 (yards), so if we get normal wind or no wind at all, these bunkers really are not in play,” he said.

“So the longer hitters, it’s just drive it down there and you’ve got a wedge in your hand.”

The course will be extended to 7,600 yards by new owner Donald Trump in two years, but Woods said there are other ways to give Doral more teeth.

“All they have to do is get these fairways fast,” he said. “That’s something that they haven’t done. Or, get the greens rock hard.

“That will make guys not be as aggressive off the tees (trying to hit fairways) because it puts a premium on getting the ball with spin into the greens.”

The greens, for now, are forgiving.

“The greens are soft,” Woods said. “So even if the ball is in the rough, you can still hold a green. In years past, it wasn’t always the case.

“If you hit the ball in the right bunker on 18, greenside bunker, you’re praying that you don’t hit the ball in the water if you land the ball on the green.

“This year they are just slower and softer.”

And the scores lower.

Tagged: Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson

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