TULSA, Okla. – After battling to make the cut but now 12 shots back, Tiger Woods succinctly outlined what he needs to do Saturday in Southern Hills.
“Hopefully tomorrow I can do something like what Bubba did today,” Woods said.
Ah, yes, Watson, the mercurial southpaw who reappeared Friday and tied the PGA Championship 18-hole scoring record with a 7-under 63. At 5-under 135, he’s four shots off the lead.
Friday’s 63 wasn’t just Watson’s career low in a major – it was his lowest by four.
“I could shoot 80-80 [on the weekend] and I don’t care what I did on Friday,” he said. “It’s very nice, don’t get me wrong. It’s an honor to be able to shoot 63 on any course. I’ll take it. But I have to look forward to tomorrow and see where I am, and hopefully I can shoot as good as today.
Now 43, Watson is a shell of the player he was four years ago, when he won three times and finished 10th in the FedExCup standings. He’s been open about his serious battles with anxiety, but less publicized he also required platelet-rich plasma injections in his wrist and knees. One of the longest pilots in the game at its peak, he’s actually below average on the Tour this season, averaging just 294 yards, which would place him 133rd on the Tour had he played enough rounds to qualify. He lost 10 yards from last season. He is about 20 meters shorter than he was five years ago.
Spotting this trend a few weeks ago, Watson changed the shafts of his driver from a 90 gram model (which he has been using since 2002) to 60 grams. The difference is stark: He’s averaged 318.1 yards on all runs this week, which ranks him 18th on the field. He said he reached a clubhead and ball speed of 5 mph.
“It helped me stretch out a bit more, loosen up with my shoulders so I could hit punches again,” he said.
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Watson only missed one fairway on the second round, on the 13th hole, and he apparently did it on purpose, so he wouldn’t be worried coming home about his perfect streak. It’s hard to imagine Woods using a similar tactic on Saturday, but it’s that kind of eccentric headspace that has defined Watson’s unorthodox career. He has only two career top-10s in the majors outside of the Masters (where he is a two-time winner), and none since 2010.
“Today was a great day,” he said, and now he needs another one.
Just like Tiger.
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