ALBANY, Bahamas (AFP) — World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and three-time major-winner Jordan Spieth opened up a one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the PGA Tour Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas on Friday as Tiger Woods’ comeback gathered pace.
Scheffler produced a stunning back nine birdie spree to vault up the leaderboard before a bogey on the 18th denied him the solo lead and left him with a six-under-par 66 to move to nine under for the tournament.
Scheffler was joined at the top of the leaderboard by Spieth, who shot five birdies for a bogey-free 67 in perfect conditions at Albany Golf Club.
Fifteen-time major winner Woods, who is playing his first tournament since undergoing ankle surgery in April, meanwhile bounced back from his opening 75 with a two-under-par 70 that left him in 15th place on the leaderboard at one over — 10 shots off the lead.
Scheffler meanwhile was left reflecting on a round that included eight birdies — including five after the turn — that saw him move up the leaderboard. The only blemishes were bogeys on the par-three eighth hole, and the par-four 18th.
“I got off to a good start and then hit some good shots,” Scheffler said.
“Then on the back nine kind of got into a nice groove there … I just hit a lot of quality shots and got some looks. That’s really just what I did best.”
Spieth meanwhile was broadly satisfied with a solid round clouded only by his inability not to pick up more shots on Albany’s par-fives. The American made birdies on the par-five ninth and 15th holes, but settled for pars on the courses three other par-fives.
“For a day where I didn’t have the putter really going… it’s really nice to see the rest of the game there,” Spieth said.
Former world number one Woods, who is hosting this week’s 20-player event, was encouraged by signs of progress as his journey back from a seven-month injury layoff continued.
“It was better than yesterday, for sure,” Woods said. “I made a few mistakes and overall the round was better, for sure. The start was better, the middle part of the round was better… Certainly better than it was yesterday.”
Woods admitted his body was still adjusting to tournament golf, contrasting it with practice rounds prior to this week’s event.
“It’s different,” Woods said. “I can play at home, I can walk, walk beaches, do all those things at home, but it’s different when you’re at game speed.”
“You can simulate all you want at home, and I had it the best I possibly can. We played a lot of money matches at home and tried to simulate it, but it’s just different.”
“You can always drop a ball at home, no big deal. Here it’s going to cost you.”
While Woods is unlikely to threaten the leaders over the weekend, Scheffler and Spieth will be glancing over their shoulders at Brian Harman, who shot a three-under-par 69 on Friday — including back-to-back birdies to finish — to move within one shot of the lead on eight under.
Justin Thomas meanwhile is alone in fourth place after a five-under-par 67 that left him on seven under, two off the pace.
England’s Matt Fitzpatrick is tied in fifth place with Collin Morikawa and Tony Finau on six under, three off the lead.