Woods catches Watney at half-way stage
Such a state of affairs had seemed unlikely when the World No 1 knocked his approach into a bunker's grassy bank at the 288 yards 16th. As it was, he holed out from 20 yards for what would have been the most improbable of birdies for anyone other than him. That done, he went on to pick up another shot at the par-five 538 yards 18th when he hit a resounding iron to the back of the green.
Though Woods had opened his day with a birdie, he had a pretty mundane outward half in which the putts refused to drop. However, with no-one making much of a move, he stayed patient and was finally rewarded at the ninth. And from then on, as he said, his putter was hot. "I knew," he said, "that if I could play the back nine in three under that it would probably be a pretty good number and I did a couple better." He and Watney are one ahead of Alvaro Quiros, Ryan Moore and Phil Mickelson, with Anthony Kim one further back.
When Watney and Quiros bumped into each other shortly after the end of their rounds, Watney had a question for the huge-hitting Spaniard. "What," he asked, "did you take for your second to the eighth?"
The eighth measures 603 yards and everyone else, including Woods, was playing safely short of the water in two and hoping to get up and down from there for a birdie.
Quiros, whose second round was a 66, was able to tell a disbelieving Watney that he had gone for the green with a four-iron. His ball slipped into sand but he got up and down for his four. Having eagled the second, he was three under par for the two par fives in his outward 31.
Watney, who had started the day two ahead, did not take long to lose his lead. Though he had notched a birdie at the second to move to nine under, he hit into a fairway bunker at the fifth and took two to escape. He then compounded his problems by taking three putts for the double-bogey which saw him dropping to seven under.
His comeback took a bit of time.... Having turned in a one-over par 37, he at last got back on track with a couple of birdies at the tenth and 11th. When it came to the 17th, he made two more.
"I played very well again," he said, "The main difference between yesterday's 64 and today's 70 was the putter. Whereas yesterday I made a whole lot of putts, today was a bit of a struggle - at least until the end."
Watney slept well enough last night and suggested that the same would apply tonight in spite of being in such illustrious company.
"I knew from the start that these great players were in the field so it's not surprising that they are playing well," he said.
The 28-year-old Watney has experienced a few firsts this week. He has never been to a bigger city than Shanghai, with its population of 18 million, and he has never been on a longer flight than that from the US to China.
On top of that, it would seem that he has never seen balls struck further than those unleashed by Quiros.
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