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Woods shoots 66, but still six behind



Published: Fri, July 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Chris Couch holds the second round lead at the Western Open.

LEMONT, Ill. (AP) -- After a dismal first round left him on the wrong side of the cut at the Western Open, Tiger Woods figured he could get right back in it with a 64 or 65.

He was close.

Woods shot a 5-under 66 Friday, putting him six strokes behind leader Chris Couch and giving him a chance to make a move this weekend.

"It's going to be hard to shoot low this afternoon," said Woods, who is at 3-under 139. "Hopefully they won't run away from me, and I can go ahead and play a good round tomorrow and get myself back in it."

Couch, who earned a spot here by winning the Nationwide Tour's LaSalle Bank Open last month, is at 9-under 133 after a 67. Tim Herron (66), Jim Furyk (70) and Duffy Waldorf (65) are one stroke behind.

Curtis falls to 71

Ben Curtis, who shared the first-round lead with Furyk and Todd Fischer, shot an even-par 71 and is two strokes off the lead. Fischer (72) is at 136 with Steve Flesch.

"It's still a long tournament," Couch said. "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 didn't have much fun Thursday. He couldn't get anywhere close to the cup or take advantage of the par 5s, and his 2-over 73 left him tied for 103rd and in jeopardy of missing another cut this year.

When he failed to make the weekend at the Byron Nelson Championship in May, it was his first missed cut in seven years on the PGA Tour, a stretch of 142 starts.

But he was back to his old self Friday.

Early eagle on 15

Starting on the back nine, he eagled the par-5 15th to get back to even par, putting his second shot within 8 feet. After another birdie on 18, he found big 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 -- and no wonder. 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."

Birdie streak

It finally paid off, with three birdies in four holes.

After a 317-yard drive on the par-4 No. 5, Woods found himself with a 22-footer for birdie. The ball rolled slowly toward the hole and looked as if it might stop short. But it kept going, dropping into the hole and 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. Woods curled it in for another birdie, and the crowd roared.

"Big bird, Tiger!" one fan yelled as he walked by. "Big bird!"

Woods had a chance to go even lower on the ninth hole, a par 5. But he flew the green with his second shot, and the ball bounced into the gallery. His chip shot left him 20 feet short of the pin, and his birdie putt rolled 5 feet past the hole.

"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."




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