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18 February 2018, 05:43 | Kristopher Drake
Rory McIlroy has rounded on the raucous golf fans and claimed Tiger Woods is operating at a "two-shot disadvantage" to the rest of the field because of the "circus" which surrounds his competitive appearances. Hardly anyone noticed. McIlroy, who played alongside Woods the first two days, paid close attention to Woods, the golfer he grew up idolizing, and said he saw enough good shots to believe Woods is "close", and counseled for patience. I knew I had to make a run on that back nine, and I went the other way. "I haven't played golf in years, but I'm starting to come back and it's going to take a little time".
Woods plans to stick around for the weekend because his TGR Foundation hosts the event, one reason he played Riviera for the first time since 2006. Woods, playing just his second US PGA Tour event since spinal fusion surgery last April, again showed some inconsistency off the tee.
"I think it would be a great sign if I do play (back to back)", Woods said Tuesday, according to ESPN's Bob Harig.
Britain's Graeme McDowell and American Patrick Cantlay shared the clubhouse lead at seven-under 135.
The 14-time major champion was playing his second Tour tournament of the season, having made his long-awaited return from ongoing back problems at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. "It was really, really, really strong to start and then laid down a little bit, kind of switched". But his second round fell apart on the greens, particularly on the back nine Friday where he tallied three-putt bogeys on Nos.
"I looked over at AJ and I said, 'We've got 27 holes to see how good we are".
That started with a short-sided bunker shot and a 10-foot par putt. "I've got a lot of room for improvement and a long way to go".
He was at 10-under 2013 as he tries to end a two-year slump that dates to his last victory two years ago at Riviera.
Watson, a two-time victor of the tournament, began the day in sixth but started as he meant to go on with a second shot on the par-5 first landing within inches of the pin.
Ryan Moore sits one shot behind in fourth after scoring 68 for the second day in a row, while Americans Tony Finau and Scott Stallings are on five-under and tied for fifth, with Stallings due to play the final two holes of his second round tomorrow. He hit good shots, but his game was not almost sharp enough to atone for far too many mistakes, especially on a track like Riviera. "He has to deal with that every single time he goes out to play".
World number one and defending championDustin Johnson teed off in the afternoon and was four-over through six holes.
Watson was able to refocus after playing in the celebrity NBA All-Star Game on Friday night. He withdrew after 13 holes of the final round with back spasms.
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