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Tiger falls narrowly short of historic 59

Paul Mahoney in Turkey
November 8, 2013 « Super Stan stays alive at the O2 | Chartbeat test »
Woods came agonisingly close to setting a European Tour first © Getty Images
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Just for a while, spectators at the Turkish Airlines Open dared to dream they were about to witness Tiger Woods shoot the first ever 59 on the European Tour.

The World No.1 was in imperious form on a glorious morning at the Montgomerie course at the Maxx Royal Resort. He blitzed the front nine of his second round in just 30 shots including five birdies and no bogeys. He added another birdie at the 10th but his quest for that elusive 59 stalled when he could only record pars at the par-five 11th and 13th.

The putts dried up and imperious turned to delirious as his patience began to be sorely tested as chances came and went. He huffed and puffed and knuckled down to finish with a flourish with birdies at three of the final four holes to sign for a course-record nine under par 63.

"That round was close to being really special," Woods said thinking back to the putts that missed and derailed the 59. "I missed four putts inside 10 feet," he said. "But I made a bunch of putts, too. So, happy with 63. I'm only one shot back. I'm right in there," Woods said.

He's one back of European big guns Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter who lead on 12 under par along with little-known Frenchman Victor Dubuisson and South African Justin Walters. Lee Westwood and Justin Rose are lurking at eight under par.

Woods expects a weekend birdie-fest so knows he will have to go low for another two rounds. "The course is set up to make a lot of birdies," he said. "The greens are receptive so no matter what club you have in the hands, you can just fire right at them."

And Woods can do it without much sleep, it appears, as he admitted he stayed up to watch his former college Stanford play football on TV. He was up and ready to finish off his storm-delayed first round just four-and-a-half hours later.

"I'm still on Singapore time," he said. He bagged the birdies at the 11th and 13th that he wished he could have repeated in his second round to keep the chance of a 59 going.

At least he didn't repeat his first round bogey at the 18th. Attempting to smash his second shot around a tree from the rough with a 5-wood, he stared in anguish as his ball plopped into the pond that defends the green. Second time around he plopped a bunker shot to three feet and holed the putt for birdie.

The race to watch Tiger was, as ever, a frenzied experience with the marshals fighting a losing battle to curb the enthusiasm of the crowd, and the caddies of Woods and his playing partners Stenson and Rose trying their best not to sound irritated while constantly asking people to stand still, keep quiet and stop clicking away with their ruddy cameras. Smart phones; stupid people.

Still, this golfing malarkey and Tigermania is new to Turkey. It's refreshing to see their joy in watching Woods and it seems only fair to give them a mulligan when it comes to understanding spectator etiquette.

Poulter hit a second consecutive 66 to hold a share of the lead © Getty Images
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The Race to Dubai is heating up nicely, too. Poulter has bet Stenson $100 that he will catch him to win Europe's money list next week in Dubai. Stenson gave him odds of 10-1. Bragging rights is all it will be and, whatever cash changes hands, it will be a drop in the ocean compared to the $1 million bonus that Europe's No.1 for the season will be awarded.

Poulter, who has shot two six under par 66s, shed more light on the bet. "I told him I was going to chase him down. I said if I do manage to catch you and pass you, we will have a nice night out and you have to pour my drinks for the evening. I think a thousand bucks isn't an issue for him but pouring my drinks all night might be a big problem," Poulter said.

He didn't divulge whether that was because of the amount he would drink or because Stenson is struggling with a wrist injury. Or both. Stenson looked concerned about his wrist.

"It's not in great shape," he said after his second round four under par 68. "I'm just hanging in there and I hope it doesn't get worse. If he (Ian) catches me, I can only pour with my left, so he's going to have to hold the glass himself. I've got this little bet with Ian and I knew he was going to come after me. I know he's not going to back down. I need to keep on making birdies, don't I?" Stenson said.

His birdie-filled first round eight under par 64 was a short-lived course record. Then, in contrast to Woods, he had to settle for pars at every hole on the front nine of the second round. But having birdied the 10th, his frustration boiled over when he missed a three-foot birdie putt at the par-five 11th. The Swede stomped to the 12th tee muttering under his breath like Muttley in The Wacky Races. There was a four-letter word that had a "K" in it. And it wasn't "Ikea".

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