Woods more interested in win at Bridgestone than shooting 59

August 02, 2013
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

On a scale of 1 of 10, Tiger Woods simply pronounced himself "pleased" with his most recent round of 61.

After all, it could have been so much more. Woods was 9 under after he birdied the first four holes on the back nine at Firestone Country Club. Two more on the final nine holes and Woods would have added another accomplishment to that is-he-the-best-player-to-ever-play-the-game resume.

But golf's Holy Grail of a 59, shot only five times previously on the PGA TOUR, eluded him. So Woods had to be content with the fourth 61 of his career, which tied the Firestone course record for the second time and gave him a commanding seven-stroke lead at the midway point of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.

"I just kept thinking ... let's just keep increasing this lead," Woods said. "So not too bad after two days."

Indeed. Neither was the 61, although Woods wouldn't put his most recent effort among the top 10 rounds of his career.

"I remember I had four of them at Pebble Beach that one year in 2000," Woods said smiling broadly as he thought back to that nine-stroke win at the U.S. Open. "Three of them were pretty good at Augusta in '97, so we're at seven right there."

In fact, Woods, who has won four times already in 2013, felt the 61 he shot at Firestone in 2000 was probably more of a challenge. He had just beaten Bob May in a playoff at the PGA the previous week, a win that gave him the third leg of the Tiger Slam. He came to Akron totally drained.

"The emotional energy that that took, it was tough," Woods said. "My practice rounds were absolutely dreadful. I didn't hit it worth a darn. I would hit snipes and blocks and whatever. I didn't really care, until Thursday came along and all of a sudden I got my juices flowing ... and my tournament built from there."

Woods hopes the momentum flows similarly this week and follows him to Rochester where he'll try to end a major championship victory drought of more than five years. So don't think that Woods takes this 61, which lifted him to 13 under, for granted or anything.

"I had a lot of control today from tee to green and obviously the way I putted," he said. "I felt I was in total control of my game. Obviously things like that don't happen every day, and it's fun when it all comes together and I was able to take advantage of it, especially on a golf course like this.

"This is not exactly an easy golf course. As you can see, 6 under is in second, so the guys aren't tearing this apart. And the fact that I was able to shoot what I shot today, I'm very proud of that."

Woods' goal when he teed off was another round of 66 or 67 -- "just basically double what I had yesterday," he said. Woods figured that would give him at least a share of the lead after 36 holes and the man who has already won seven Bridgestone Invitationals certainly liked his chances on the weekend.

Those expectations changed almost immediately as Woods made a 3-footer for birdie at No. 1, a 20-footer for eagle at the second and a 13-footer for birdie at the third. Suddenly he was in the lead, feeling the momentum, and after the birdie barrage on the back nine, Woods noted, the "round dynamics totally changed."

While some players might be intimidated and fall victim to their own nerves, Woods thrives on going low. He'd been there before, too, albeit in a practice round with Mark O'Meara at Isleworth, where it took 13 under to craft his 59.

"We were playing fives-auto-ones, and he lost a boatload playing for only that nominal denomination," Woods recalled with a chuckle. "And then the very next day an even better story is that we played nine holes, and I was 5 under through nine, and then parred 10 and made a hole in one at 11.

"He just drove his cart home. ... He didn't say a word to me."

While Woods said he "didn't feel uncomfortable at all" when he got to 9 under on Friday, he wasn't able to coax the 59 home. He missed a 9-footer for birdie at the 15th hole, which was his first miss inside 10 feet all week, and couldn't convert from 8 at the 17th hole.

The 16th, which is Firestone's signature par 5, offered another opportunity. He unleashed a drive that measured 379 yards but it settled in the first cut, against the grain, and Woods was afraid to take the chance at going for a green well-guarded by a small lake.

So Woods laid up to 89 yards, a "perfect number" he would later say. But the ball settled in a slight depression, again against the grain, and Woods feared taking the pin on too boldly. "I've got to play long and play safe, which I did," said Woods, who would two-putt for par from 30 feet behind the hole.

At least the 26-footer he drained after playing the 18th hole on the wrong side of the trees ended the round on a positive note.

"Would it have been nice to shoot 59?  Yeah, it would have been nice," Woods said. "I certainly had the opportunity."

But Woods is all about winning golf tournaments, and he's given himself that opportunity once again this weekend.