x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Woods moves up a gear in Buick

No one really minds how they win, but Tiger Woods tends to hold himself to a different standard.

No one really minds how they win, but Tiger Woods tends to hold himself to a different standard. Saturday was one of those days for the golfer, who - despite some dubious shots - managed to shoot a seven-under 65 for a one-stroke lead at the Buick Open, with one more day to go. Of course, he was at a vantage position by virtue of Michael Letzig (68) double bogeying the last hole.

But prior to that, an out-of-sorts Woods drove on adjacent fairways twice on the back nine, hit a glass of beverage in a spectator's hand, got rattled by a bug and was relegated to shaping shots around trees and under branches. Yet he incredibly managed to build an overall 17-under 199. He later admitted that: "The whole idea of the game is put the ball in the hole, and I did that. But as far as controlling my ball, I didn't do that."

Woods opened his first tournament since missing the cut at the British Open with a 71 after what he said was probably his worst putting day. When he was eight shots behind first-round leader Steve Lowery, Woods said he could not make up ground in one day. But he admirably roared back into contention with a nine-under 63 in the second round and took the lead with his 65 on Saturday. Woods moved into a tie for the lead with Letzig at 17 under with a 33ft birdie putt at No 17. This he followed up with a fist pump, and an exclamation of joy.

"Yeah!" he roared before the crowd responded in kind. But they were so loud, he could hardly hear what caddie Steve Williams was telling him. "It was exciting," said Woods, making his ninth Buick Open appearance. "The people here have been absolutely incredible, so supportive of this event over the years. That's one of the reasons why we love coming here." It is one of the reasons why the world No 1 was unhappy with his up-and-down performance.

After being flawless in the second round, he made enough clutch shots to make up for many poor ones in the third. He three-putted from 55ft on the par-five first. He was still muttering and shaking his head about the missed opportunity on the second fairway as he slammed his three-wood into his bag and starting eating a peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich. At the fifth, he stepped out of his stance and kicked a bug that he acknowledged led to him losing concentration and sailing his tee shot to the right 237 yards away from the pin. "I didn't refocus on the shot. I just got away with it," he said.

Woods cut a shot around one tree, over a towering one and reached the green to set up a two-putt from 53ft for a birdie. At the seventh, he pulled out his driver that stayed in his bag for much of the day and the tee shot caromed off a glass of beverage that was in a fan's hands and led to some friendly banter. Woods hit his second shot under some tree branches and it landed about 300 yards away. A brilliant save out of sand set him up for another birdie.

So while Woods was pleased with his results, he was not proud of the way he had to scramble on one of the easier courses on the PGA Tour. "This golf course is pretty short. You have to take advantage and I did, but unfortunately, I didn't do it the correct way." * With agencies