There are 205 strategically placed bunkers at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club, many deep and punishing. For 35 holes, Tiger Woods avoided all of them in the 141st Open Championship in Lytham St. Annes, England.
In Friday's second round, he mishit his second shot on the 413-yard, par-4 18th hole, finding a greenside bunker on the right. So what did Tiger do? He holed out for a birdie.
"It wasn't that bad, because I was on the upslope," he said afterward. "I could throw it up there and land it on the flat and be totally fine on the speed."
It was a great way to end the day for Woods, who pumped his right fist twice, bumped fists with caddie Joe LaCava, then tipped his hat to the huge crowd in the grandstand on the left, many of the spectators standing and clapping.
Woods finished with his second consecutive 3-under-par 67 and has a 36-hole score of 6-under 134. He's in third place, four strokes behind fellow American Brandt Snedeker, who fired a 64 on Friday.
For two days, Woods has played conservatively, hitting long irons off most tees to take the bunkers out of play. It takes patience and commitment, but he is convinced it is the best way to tame the golf course and give himself a chance to win a fourth Claret Jug on Sunday.
"I'm very pleased," Woods said. "I'm executing my game plan, which I thought would be effective on this golf course. We've got a long way to go."
Tiger used a similar strategy when he won in 2006 at nearby Royal Liverpool. The big difference this week is that Royal Lytham is lush and green from a wet spring and summer, and balls are holding on the greens. In 2006, Royal Liverpool was brown, sun-baked and dusty, and balls were chasing forever.
Through two rounds, Royal Lytham has let down its guard, which explains the low scoring. There has been little wind to challenge the players, although it is supposed to increase on Sunday.
Not that the layout is a pushover.
"The hole locations were all up on knobs, and it was really tough to get the ball in a spot where you could be pretty aggressive," Woods said.
Woods leads the field in fairways hit -- 26 of 28 -- as he has missed only one in each round. He also ranks third in greens in regulation, finding 29 of 36.
That bodes well for the weekend, when the 36-year-old Woods will seek his fourth tournament win of the year and 15th major championship. He shared the 36-hole lead last month at the U.S. Open, eventually tying for 21st.
"I just want to keep giving myself chances," Tiger said. "If I do that, good things will happen."
For the second straight day, Woods got off to a strong start at Royal Lytham. A late starter with Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia, he parred the first three holes, missing a good birdie opportunity at the par-3 first hole.
Woods broke through with a short birdie putt at the par-4 fourth hole, knocking a 7-iron from 181 yards about six feet from the cup, then added a 17-footer at the par-4 sixth. He parred the last three holes of the front nine to make the turn in 2-under 32.
Moving to the tougher back side, Tiger two-putted the par-4 10th hole from 25 feet for a par, then sustained his lone bogey of the day at the 598-yard, par-5 11th.
At the latter, Woods hit a poor iron off the tee into the right rough, then compounded the mistake by hitting his second shot into the knee-high fescue grass on the left. On his third shot he was forced to play short of the green, and he carried his fourth shot over the back of the putting surface. Tiger did well to get up and down for only his second bogey of the tournament.
"It all started with a bad tee shot," Woods said.
After a two-putt par from long range at the 196-yard, par-3 12th, Tiger failed to birdie the short, par-4 13th, the easiest hole on the course, missing from 15 feet. Woods almost chipped in for par at the par-4 14th, then made a nice two-putt par at the difficult, 462-yard, par-4 15th.
At the 336-yard, par-4 16th, Tiger split the fairway with an iron and hit his second shot 23 feet below the cup. Aiming six inches right of the hole, he poured in the birdie putt.
Following a two-putt par at No. 17, Woods went to No. 18 hoping to finish off his round in style. He did, although not the way he intended.
"I pulled it off," said a smiling Tiger, who used 28 putts in the round.
Conditions are expected to be good again Saturday, although you never know with links courses.
Woods welcomes a breeze.
"We haven't seen it yet," he said.
Tiger will tee off Saturday at 10:10 a.m. ET with Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen.