Tiger recovers, within six strokes of Couch
LEMONT, Ill. -- Most of the moving and shaking took place at the top of the Western Open's leaderboard.
Look a little further down, though, and there's a guy who could produce the biggest shake-up of all.
Tiger Woods rebounded from the dismal first round that had him at the edge of the cut line, shooting a 5-under 66 Friday to put himself within range of the leaders.
"Hopefully they won't run away from me," he said after his morning round. "And I can go ahead and play a good round tomorrow and get myself back in it."
Woods is still six strokes behind leader Chris Couch, who shot a 4-under 67 and is at 9-under 133 for the tournament. But he's making up ground fast. Woods is now tied for 17th after starting the day tied for 103rd.
Duffy Waldorf (65), Tim Herron (66) and Jim Furyk (70) are one stroke behind Couch. Ben Curtis, who shared the first-round lead with Furyk and Todd Fischer, is two strokes off the lead after an even-par 71. Fischer (72) is at 136 with Steve Flesch.
"It's still a long tournament," said Couch, who earned a spot here by winning the Nationwide Tour's LaSalle Bank Open last month. "I'm trying not to think too far ahead. I'm going to take it shot by shot and keep trying to have some fun."
Woods certainly had a lot more fun in the second round than he did in the first. The world's No. 1 player couldn't get anywhere close to the cup or take advantage of the par 5s, and his 2-over 73 left him in jeopardy of missing another cut this year.
His record of 142 consecutive cuts made on the PGA Tour ended in May, when he failed to make the weekend at the Byron Nelson Championship.
"I played a little bit better today, but more importantly, I putted better," Woods said. "The work I did last night certainly helped."
Woods hit 11 of 18 greens Friday, the same as he did Thursday. But he needed only 23 putts, six fewer than he took in the first round.
"I didn't hit the ball that bad [Thursday], I just got nothing out of it on the greens," he said. "I felt like I had my speed back today."
After getting to 1-under par with an eagle on 15 and a birdie on 18, Woods was right back in trouble on No. 2.
At 180 yards, No. 2 is the shortest hole on Cog Hill's Dubsdread Course, and a straight shot to the green. But Woods shanked his tee shot, landing about 30 yards off the green -- well behind the gallery -- and behind a tree.
"I must have had a bad lie on the tee box there," Woods joked.
He had no choice but to punch out, and the ball skipped into a trap in front of the green. He blasted out to within 3 feet, then tapped in for a bogey that dropped him back to par.
"I've hit the ball so bad when I've tried to hit it hard, and that was a perfect example of it," he said. "I actually made a great bogey. I've hit better shots in there and made bogey, so it's the same thing."
But he didn't appear happy as he walked to the third tee with a grim look on his face. With the cut line at even, Woods was still squarely on it.
"I never felt like it was turning around," he said. "I just had to stay patient with it."
It finally paid off, with three birdies in four holes.
After a 317-yard drive on the par-4 No. 5, Woods had a 22-footer for birdie. The ball rolled slowly toward the hole and looked as if it might stop short, but it kept going and finally dropped in, prompting a fist pump from Woods.
He saved par on No. 6 after putting his tee shot in a bunker, then had two impressive birdies. On No. 7, his ball hit the green above the pin and spun back, stopping about 2 feet from the hole.
On No. 8, the ball landed 20 feet above the hole and on the fringe, just skirting the edge of a trap. But it rolled back until it was 3 feet from the cup, and Woods curled it in for another birdie.
"Big bird, Tiger!" one fan yelled as Woods walked by. "Big bird!"
"You just plug along," Woods said. "You stay in the present, you work on what you have to do to get the ball to the next spot and that's it. It doesn't get any more complicated than that."
That's Couch's mantra, too. With two wins and a runner-up finish on the Nationwide Tour, he figured this week would be a nice warmup for his return to the PGA Tour next year.
But it's gone even better than that. Despite a quick turnaround from Thursday's first round -- he didn't finish playing until about 8:30 p.m. -- he was bogey-free Friday, and made four birdies on the back nine.
"I felt like I never stopped playing," he said. "That may have been good because I was playing good yesterday and it carried over to today."
Waldorf finished his round with three straight birdies. ... Mark Hensby made one of the biggest swings, shooting a 65 one day after a 75. ... The cut was even par 142. Among those missing it were John Daly (144), Mike Weir and former Western champ Steve Stricker (145) and nearby Hinsdale resident Jeff Sluman (150).
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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