Dublin: 15°C Friday 18 June 2021

Tiger Woods sinks monster 71-foot putt to continue fine form, McIlroy one shot off the lead

Henrik Stenson is out in front after the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Woods reacts to a putt.
Woods reacts to a putt.
Image: Mike Ehrmann

TIGER WOODS SANK six birdie putts, including a spectacular 71-footer at the par-3 seventh hole, and sits tied for third with an opening four-under-par 68 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The 14-time major champion, among the early starters on a Bay Hill layout where he has won seven times before, showed the peak form that sparked his best finish in five years last week and none of the back pain that sidelined him most of the past two seasons.

Woods, Patrick Red, Byeong Hun An, Rickie Fowler, Aaron Wise and Talor Gooch are all two shots off leader Henrik Stenson, who is on seven-under, with Rory McIlroy and 2016 PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker tied on five-under.

Graeme McDowell sits a further shot back, while Padraig Harrington carded a one-under and Shane Lowry is three-over.

Walker holed out from 132 yards for eagle on the 18th fairway to complete an opening 67, but the electricity of the day came from Woods, the 42-year-old superstar who has not won a major since the 2008 US Open and hasn’t captured any title since the 2013 World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.

AP Rd1 Source: pgatour.com

Woods, who also won his eighth Bay Hill crown in 2013, birdied all four par-5 holes and played the rest of the round at level par, two birdies undone by one bad tee shot and a double-bogey disaster.

Woods, whose 79 career PGA titles are three shy of Sam Snead’s career record, began on the back nine and sank a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-5 12th. He followed with a 17-foot birdie putt at the par-4 13th and dropped in a six-footer for birdie at the par-5 16th.

At the par-3 second, Woods found a bunker but blasted out inches from the cup to save par but stumbled on his next swing, blasting his tee shot way right on the third hole on his way to a double bogey six.

But Woods responded with birdies on three of the next four holes, sinking a four-footer at the par-5 fourth and a three-footer at the par-5 sixth to set the stage for his greatest putt of them all.

On the far edge of the seventh green, Woods curled the ball to the right and watched it pick up speed and roll into the cup from 71 feet for a magnificent birdie that brought a smile to his face and a raised hand to acknowledge the cheers of the crowd.

Posted by on Friday, 18 June 2021

But the work wasn’t over. At his final hole, the par-4 ninth, Woods found a greenside bunker and blasted out 11 feet past the cup, then sank the clutch par putt to finish hot on Walker’s heels.

© – AFP 2018

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