Moving day came early this week as Tiger Woods posted the low round of the day at the Turkish Airlines Open. He made five birdies on his first nine holes and added four more on the back nine in his bogey-free nine-under par 63 in Round 2.
Woods was grouped with FedEx Cup winner Henrik Stenson and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose. This high-powered threesome accounted for 17 birdies and no bogeys in the second round at the Maxx Royal Montgomerie Course.
Except for some exhibitions, Woods has not played in a competitive tournament since the Presidents Cup at the beginning of October. He showed some rust on Thursday with his first-round 70, but he struck the ball much better in the second round on Friday.
The Montgomerie Course should play right to his strength. It features five par-five holes and five par-three holes.
After a par at the first hole on Friday, Woods reeled off four birdies in his next five holes and finished with a birdie at No. 9 for a front-nine 29. He added birdies at Nos. 10, 15, 17 and 18 on the back nine for his nine-under par 63.
Woods is still not in full control of his driver but appears to be striking his irons with precision. He also putted solidly in the second round. He is just one shot behind the leaders at 11-under par through 36 holes.
Stenson is tied with Justin Walters, Ian Poulter and Victor Dubuisson for the lead in the Turkish Airlines Open at 12-under par. Stenson currently leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai and is trying to become the first player to win both the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai in the same year.
Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy won the money titles on both the PGA and the European Tours in the same season, but neither won the FedEx Cup.
Including wins at the Deutsche Bank and the Tour Championship in the FedEx Cup playoffs, Stenson closed out the 2013 PGA Tour season with five top-10 finishes in his last seven starts.
His only start in the new 2013-2014 wrap-around schedule was at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where he finished tied for 31st place. His four top-10 finishes in his last five European Tour starts boosted him to the top spot in the Race to Dubai.
A win or a high finish this week in the Turkish Airlines Open—the next-to last event in the Race to Dubai Finals—would give him an insurmountable lead heading into the Dubai World Finals next week.
Rose is currently third in the Race to Dubai and is tied for ninth at eight-under par for the tournament. He is trying to pass No. 2 Graeme McDowell, who is taking this week off, and inch closer to Stenson for the top spot in the Race to Dubai.
Poulter is also having a good week in Turkey. He has posted a pair of 66s over the first two rounds and is in the group tied for the lead after 36 holes.
He finished runner-up last week to Dustin Johnson in the WGC-HSBC, is fourth in the Race to Dubai and is getting hot at just the right time.
The stakes are substantial on the European Tour, as only the top 10 in the Race to Dubai will share in the $3.75 million bonus pool at the end of the European Tour season next week.