DUBLIN, Ohio: Tiger Woods is 1 stroke and two rounds away from tying Jack Nicklaus for the second-most victories in PGA Tour history.
There would be no more fitting tournament to do it than the Memorial, founded and hosted by Nicklaus on the course that Jack built, Muirfield Village Golf Club.
“We’ve got a long way to go for that,” Woods said. “Obviously it would be nice, but I’ve still got half a tournament to go.”
Seeking his 73rd career victory, Woods persevered in rainy and windy conditions Friday, when his second-round tee time was pushed back one hour and 48 minutes by a morning deluge. He fired a 3-under-par 69 for a 5-under 139 total, tying Spencer Levin and Scott Stallings for second, 1 stroke behind leader Rory Sabbatini.
Sam Snead holds the all-time tour victory mark with 82.
Woods’ ball-striking drew raves from Golf Channel analyst Nick Faldo and pleased Woods, who compared it to Bay Hill, where he earned his first victory in more than two years March 25 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“This is the way that I hit the ball at Bay Hill and the way I hit it at the end of last year,” Woods said. “That’s what’s exciting about it.”
In one regard, Woods said this effort was better.
“I was able to shape the ball both ways and hit the ball the correct distances every time,” he said. “If you look over the course of my career, I think that’s one thing I’ve been very good at, hitting the ball pin-high. The last couple days I’ve done that.”
Woods birdied Nos. 1, 4, 6, 15 and 16, with his lone mistake at the par-3 12th, where he carded a 5. Woods said he changed his club from an 8-iron to a 7-iron after he saw playing partner Fred Couples’ 6-iron stand up against the wind. His tee shot flew the green and his chip shot from the rough 21 yards away ended up in the intermediate cut 12 yards away. He two-putted from 12 feet.
Fear factor for Watson
Bubba Watson said he was followed by a car for 37 minutes after leaving “Bubba’s Bash,” a charity Christian rap concert in downtown Columbus on Tuesday night.
Watson said his wife, Angie, initially was driving, but they quickly pulled over and he took the wheel “so I could drive through somebody’s yard if I had to.”
Watson said caddie Ted Scott also tried to find the Watsons so he could block the chasing vehicle.
“We had to drive away from the house we rented,” Watson said. “I kept driving around and they finally gave up. Maybe they ran out of gas. I made sure I had a full tank of gas. I was going to keep driving until we felt safe again.”
Masters Tournament champion Watson said that was the first time he’d been followed, but said he asked his Thursday playing partner Phil Mickelson, who replied it had happened to him “a lot.”
Stow resident Ben Curtis said the closest he’d come to such an incident was in New York during a U.S. Open when a man followed him into his hotel.
“A guy wanted an autograph. He had 50 pictures, he was going to sell them on eBay,” said Curtis, the 2003 British Open champion.
Stewart Cink, the 2009 British Open winner, has experienced nothing like Watson, but wondered if tournaments will be forced to eliminate labels on players’ courtesy cars.
“There’s stickers all over them that say, ‘Memorial Tournament’ and ‘Official Vehicle,’ ” Cink said.
Curtis misses cut
Curtis struggled through a round that included six bogeys, a double bogey (at 16) and one birdie to card 79 for a 149 total, missing the cut by 2 strokes. He will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open in Columbus on Monday at Scioto Country Club and Ohio State’s Scarlet Course.
Among the other notables who missed the cut were reigning U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy (79-150) his third consecutive missed cut, PGA Champion Keegan Bradley (74-150) and Watson (74-149).