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Tiger Woods insists dream of hat-trick is still in his sights

By Phil Casey

Tiger Woods celebrated the likelihood of keeping a proud record alive in the Players Championship - and then insisted he could still win a third title at Sawgrass.

Woods had not missed the cut in 16 previous appearances in the so-called 'fifth major', although he has withdrawn twice through injury, but looked in danger of an early exit with one hole to play.

However, the 39-year-old birdied the par-five ninth, his final hole, to card a round of 71 and get back to level par for the tournament, one shot inside the predicted cut mark.

Woods began the day one over par after finishing his opening 73 with a double bogey on the 18th and endured another rollercoaster round with five bogeys and six birdies.

A birdie on the par-five 11th, his second hole, was followed by bogeys on the 12th and 13th before birdies on the 15th and 17th took Woods to the turn in 35.

For the second day running he badly hooked his tee shot on the first - it was measured at just 171 yards - and made bogey, but bounced back with a birdie on the par-five second.

A bogey on the fourth was cancelled out by a birdie from 25 feet on the fifth before a dropped shot on the seventh looked set to prove costly, but Woods knew what he needed to do and the fist pump after he holed from nine feet on the ninth told its own story.

"It was probably to make the cut on the number," Woods said of his reaction.

"I figured it was probably not going to go to one over. We knew that playing the last couple of holes I needed to make birdie on one of the last two holes and I did.

"I haven't got a lot out of my rounds. Each round I should have been probably a few under par. I just need to start capitalising on my opportunities."

Woods has started just four events in 2015, shooting a career-worst score of 82 to miss the cut in the first of them and withdrawing through injury after just 11 holes of the second on February 5.

After two months out to work on his game Woods returned to action in the Masters and finished joint 17th at Augusta National, but revealed on Tuesday he had not slept for three days following the end of his relationship with skier Lindsey Vonn.

At level par Woods was eight shots behind pacesetter Kevin Na, who added a 69 to his opening 67, with South African Branden Grace and Canada's David Hearn also safely in the clubhouse on six under.

"If it stays the way it's at, anybody who makes the cut can win the tournament," Woods added.

"I don't know what the lead is going to be at the end of the day, but right now there are over 70 guys within seven shots of each other. That's unheard of."

Ulster's world number one Rory McIlroy was among the later starters after his opening round three under par 69.

ARDGLASS player Cormac Sharvin shares fourth place on one under at the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin after a second round one under 71 in horrendous conditions.

Jack Hume from Naas leads on five under.

Belfast Telegraph


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