Tiger Woods whips up another blizzard of birdies as Rory McIlroy starts to shine

Former world No 1 leads by two after impressing on the greens but faces McDowell challenge

Doral

Wow, the exclamation beloved of the American audience and annexed by Tiger Woods at Miami. Others excelled, too, in benign conditions at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, but no-one in this precinct excites like Woods, who leads the deepest field of the year by two shots on 13 under par.

The blizzard of birdies continued with eight more taking his total to 17 for the tournament, a personal best for Woods in the opening two rounds on the PGA Tour. Wow indeed. Woods goes out today with a certain major winner from Northern Ireland. You guessed it, Graeme McDowell. Rory McIlroy also meets that description, of course, and though he enjoyed a better day, carding his first sub-70 round of the year, 69, he is not in contention here.

Woods attributed his arresting transformation on the greens at Doral to a putting clinic from his laser-like Ryder-Cup partner Steve Stricker, who is tied third with Phil Mickelson, three shots behind. "Whatever he says I'm going to do," said Woods of the guru of the greens. "He's one of the best putters that ever lived."

The rapid turnaround is not new to the Woods repertoire this year. He went from a missed cut at Abu Dhabi in January to the top step of the podium at the Farmers Insurance Open a week later at Torrey Pines, a victory underscored by another slide-rule putting display.

"Basically, he got me into the same position I was in a Torrey," Woods said. "He can see things that are a little off because he knows my stroke so well. He gave me a couple of things to think about and lo and behold I started feeling like I did at Torrey and the ball started rolling."

The hoopla surrounding Woods needs little amplification. Despite closing the Honda Classic buried in deep midfield he was still the pre-tournament favourite at Doral, a course on which he has won six times. We are also entering major season, another reason for excitement among the natives. The second World Golf Championship event of the year has come to signal the countdown to Augusta.

Watching Woods make the ball disappear on the greens remains the most compelling sight in golf, the more so when his approach play is commensurate with his finishing.

"My short game is certainly much better since last year," he said. "The things that I have been working on in my long game are finally starting to solidify. I'm now able to hit the shots that I want and I don't get any surprises on distances. It took time to make the change, to come from my old swing to now was a pretty drastic change."

Which brings us neatly to the travails of McIlroy, presently negotiating the technical tightrope that claims every golfer at one point or another. McIlroy is conspicuous by his absence on a leaderboard colonised by major winners, including Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley and Charl Schwartzel as well as Woods, McDowell and Mickelson. But the Ulsterman was much, much better, dispensing with the pre-shot routine introduced on the first day here to combat an errant take-away.

His opening drive was a beauty, splitting the fairway and setting up a welcome birdie. There was a three-putt at the fourth and a fluffed chip at the sixth that led to bogeys, thereafter it was more like the McIlory of old, snaring five birdies over a 10-hole stretch to the 16th. It was a pity that he signed off with a second three-putt from 21 feet, but he was buoyed by what came before on a hole framed by water that strikes fear into mortals.

"I was pleased with today and I saw a lot of good signs," McIlroy said. "I drove the ball much better and for the most part my irons were okay, so something to build on." A wow of sorts, then.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'