Tiger Woods surely isn't going to defend his Zozo Championship title, but he can at least take solace knowing he has some much-needed individual momentum following Friday's bounce-back performance.
The 15-time major champion shot a six-under 66 in the second round at Sherwood Country Club in California in a much better showing than his four-over 76 in the first round.
It appeared as if the best news for Woods at the tournament that was moved from Japan to the United States because of the COVID-19 pandemic was that it was a no-cut event following that opening round, but he made significant strides Friday in his first event since he missed the cut at the U.S. Open in September.
He is still two-under for the tournament and far behind leader Justin Thomas (-14), but he resembled the version of himself that is an 82-time winner on the PGA Tour more than the one that is a 44-year-old golfer struggling to bounce back from injuries in the latter portion of his career.
One of the biggest problems for Woods in his first round was the par-fives, which he played at three-over.
In fact, Steve DiMeglio of Golfweek noted it was the first time in the all-time great's career he shot bogey or worse on three par-fives in a single round. It was a stunning development and a primary reason he struggled to score well on a course he boasted a 68.46 career average at prior to the round.
ESPN's Bob Harig pointed out the 76 was Woods' highest score of his career at Sherwood Country Club, which was all the more troubling for him considering he shot a 64 in each of the first two rounds during his ZOZO Championship title last year.
Woods wasted no time putting those par-five worries to rest Friday with a dart right at the pin on his approach shot on No. 2. He capitalized with a birdie and then birdied the par-five fifth as well.
It was part of an important opening stretch that saw him tally five birdies on the front nine with head-turning approach shots on Nos. 4 and 6 to set up easy putts. The only blemish on his front nine came when he three-putted No. 3 for a bogey, but he quickly put that behind him as the round continued and drained a long putt for birdie on No. 9.
It appeared as if that momentum would be fleeting when a poor tee shot led to a bogey on No. 10, but he recovered with another par-five birdie on No. 11 before an absolute adventure on No. 14.
Woods was just off the fairway through two on the par-four but mishit a chip that barely went anywhere. Rather than let it derail him, he saved par with a putt from off the green to take momentum into the four-hole closing stretch featuring two par-threes and the final par-five.
He parlayed that momentum into another par-five birdie on No. 16 and a birdie on the par-three 17th following an excellent tee shot to cap off a brilliant round.
Woods now has something to build on as he works toward the Nov. 12 Masters.
"I think my plan is just to play and practice," he said prior to the Zozo Championship, per Harig. "I don't know if I'm going to play Houston or not. I'm not playing next week, and we'll see how this week goes and make a decision from there."
This week is going much better following Friday's showing.