Woods struggles to stay in touch


MELBOURNE: Bogeys outnumbered birdies as Tiger Woods struggled to keep in touch with the lead halfway through the Australian Masters on a trying day at Melbourne’s Victoria Golf Club on Friday.
The 14-time Major winner laboured to a one-over 72 to concede 36-hole pacesetter Adam Bland a widening nine strokes in blustery conditions with the weather forecast to further deteriorate for Saturday’s third round. Woods has the job ahead as he searches for his breakthrough tournament victory in a barren 2010 season.
Australian Bland maintained his cracking pace from his opening round 65 to fire a four-under 67 to be 10-under 132 and lead by two strokes from compatriot Andre Stolz (67-67) at the halfway stage.
While Brand was relishing his opportunity to upstage the tournament drawcards, former world number one Woods was frustrated by a round littered with four bogeys and three birdies in winds that gusted around 60 km/h (37mph) for most of the day.
“It was tougher today and when the wind blows this hard it affects everybody,” Woods said. Woods left his trap shot nine feet short at the opening hole but sunk the birdie putt.
He slumped to bogeys at the fifth and seventh holes as he wrestled with the blustery afternoon conditions. He had a 35-foot putt for eagle at the ninth after a three-iron approach shot but it broke to the left of the hole and he tapped in for his second birdie of the round.
Woods had a birdie chance when he hit 143 metres to the flag downwind at the 11th but missed a short-range putt. He paid for that miss at the following hole when his 10-foot putt for par shoehorned out of the hole for another dropped shot.
Woods got a thick lie off the tee at the 13th and pulled his second shot to the left into a bunker and missed a 20-footer for par for his fourth bogey of the round. He pulled back a shot with a birdie at the 17th as heavy rain started to fall.
He struggled with his putting in Thursday’s benign conditions, posting an opening round of two-under 69. Woods, 34, is returning to Melbourne where he last won before a spectacular fall from grace in the wake of a sex scandal that engulfed his personal and professional life.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia staked his claim with day’s best round of six-under 65 to be six strokes off Bland’s lead at four-under 138. Garcia made six birdies, made just 30 putts and missed four fairways in a performance that thrust him into contention.