There was a stretch when it all looked so easy.
Woods hit a full swing, flop shot behind the 12th green to a few feet away to save par, the only time he was seriously in trouble. He hit a high cut with a 5-iron to a tough pin on the par-3 11th for birdie from 15 feet, and he holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 13th.
The streak began with a 6-iron to the middle of the 18th green for a two-putt birdie. He rolled in birdie putts from the 12-foot to 18-foot range on the next three holes, and while he nearly holed out with a wedge on No. 5, his best work came at the 293-yard fourth hole.
Woods can reach the green with a 3-wood, but he felt the wind gust into his face, and opted for a driver, playing for a baby cut to take off some distance and get it into the front bunker for a relatively easy up-and-down. Instead, it came a yard short of the sand, and he had to play a high flop to a tiny section of the green that ran away from him.
"I had to play an all-out shot to try to keep it on the green," he said. "I went for it, and it came off."
His bid for a seventh straight birdie — the last time he had a streak that long was the third round at the 2005 Masters that carried into Sunday morning — was a 12-footer up the hill on the sixth hole. He took a step toward the hole as the ball was a foot away, sure it was going to drop, and stopped in his tracks as the ball turned slightly to the left. He spun around and removed his cap in disbelief.
As many as he was making, perhaps it was a shock to see one miss.
"Unfortunately, it just wiggled about a half-ball left, where I thought it was going to wiggle about a half-ball right," he said.
The round ended on a sour note, with a 7-iron as the wind briefly died. The ball went into the collar of the green, sitting down just enough that he tried to swing hard enough to generate speed and spin the ball. It didn't work out, and the chip ran 12 feet by. He missed for his only bogey, and tossed his putter at the bag in disgust. Anyone who had not seen the previous 17 holes might have thought it was another tough day at the office.
Instead, it was his lowest score since a 64 in the opening round of the 2009 AT&T National at Congressional.
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