LYTHAM ST ANNES, England (Reuters) - Tiger Woods’s second round at the British Open was progressing in a very predictable manner on a warm and still Friday afternoon until he reached the 16th hole.
Iron into fairway, iron on to green and two putts was the former world number one’s favored routine as he plotted his way carefully around the Lytham links.
But when the 14-times major winner holed a lengthy birdie putt on the par-four to wake the course from its early evening slumber suddenly the following masses were buzzing again.
The biggest roar, from the crowd and the former world number one himself, was reserved for the 18th, where Woods chipped out from a greenside bunker for another birdie to card a second consecutive three-under 67 and move to four off the lead.
“It wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t as hard as it may have looked,” Woods told reporters of his bunker shot that left onlooking fans open-jawed in amazement.
“Because I was on the upslope I could take out that steepness coming off the bunker and land the ball on the flat. So I just threw it up there and I played about a cup outside the left and it landed on my spot and rolled to the right.”
Not many others could have pulled it off and even Woods’s face wore an almost apologetic look as he nodded to the galleries and laughed to himself.
“I‘m very pleased at where I‘m at. We’re at the halfway point and I‘m right there in the mix.”
Until the final three holes the American’s second round had been a procession of sensible iron shots off tees and little drama.
Woods started brightly to be two under through six holes and the same fever as Thursday gripped the following hoards, most of whom were told repeatedly to “put away their cameras” by exasperated marshals.
A number of incidents followed where either Woods or playing partners Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia had to back off hitting shots as officials pleaded with the public to stop photographing the players.
The clamor soon went away once Woods again settled into a routine of par golf, only stumbling briefly at the long par-five 11th where he slashed from the right-hand rough into the left-hand hay for a bogey.
Crucially, however, Woods appeared relaxed, calling out “Shot” to world number nine Rose after the Englishman pitched accurately at the flag on 11 to set up a birdie chance.
Woods followed him through the green in four, but he took his medicine and moved on, awaiting his chance to post red numbers.
”It’s just patience on a golf course like this,“ he said. ”I‘m hitting the ball in the fairway and that’s the thing around this golf course, you just have to do that.
”You can’t control it out of the rough here. It’s just unbelievable. It’s so long that it doesn’t grab the hosel, it grabs shafts.
“So you’ve just got to make sure that whatever line you decide to go on, be committed and hit it good.”
Woods will not want to find the rough again. Twice it has cost him shots so do not expect the 36-year-old to treat the crowds with booming drives as he seeks to reel in leader Brandt Snedeker and Adam Scott.
“You can hit drivers down there and some guys did. Or you can be more conservative. It allows you to play whatever way you want.”
Editing by Ed Osmond