Woodland leads in the Bahamas as Tiger gets within two shots

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Two big birdies from Gary Woodland gave him the lead in the Hero World Challenge. A closing birdie on a hole that has vexed Tiger Woods put him in range of a third victory this year.

Patrick Reed fully expected to be right there until watching video of his club moving sand away from his golf ball in a waste area, leading to a two-shot penalty in a round that didn’t go all that well in the first place.

The end of an entertaining round on Friday in this holiday event in the tropics set up what figures to be a lively conclusion. Woodland’s final two birdies gave him a four-under 68 and a one-shot lead over Henrik Stenson. Six players were separated by three shots.

That includes Woods, who hasn’t won his event since it was in California in 2011. With one eye on being a playing captain at the Presidents Cup next week in Australia, Woods focussed on birdies instead of potential pairings at Royal Melbourne and was two shots off the lead.

“I just have to focus on going out there and making birdies,” Woods said. “And then I have 23 hours on a plane to recover.”

Gary Woodland lines up a putt on the third hole. PHOTO: AFP

Woodland makes his Presidents Cup debut next week, and he appears to be in good form. He dropped only one shot, gave another way by failing to birdie the par-five 15th, and then finished in style. First, he holed a 30-foot putt on the par-three 17th. Then, with the wind at his back, he hit wedge to three feet for another birdie.

On Thursday, he ended his round with three straight birdies.

“It was a nice finish, same as yesterday,” he said. “So excited about where I’m at and I look forward to tomorrow.”

The next two weeks cap off a memorable year for Woodland, who won his first major at Pebble Beach in the United States (US) Open, and then his wife had twins. This is the first time travelling with the entire family — three kids under two — and they couldn’t fit all the car seats and strollers on the plane.

It was a forgettable day for Reed in so many ways.

Staked to a three-shot lead, he didn’t make a birdie until the 14th hole, a short par four that can be reached off the tee. He added two more down the stretch, only to lose two strokes in the scoring room.

Reed was in a sandy waste area left of the fairway on the par-five 11th when video clearly caught his sand wedge removing sand right behind the ball — twice — during practice swings.

That’s a violation of Rule 8.1a (4) on removing or pressing down sand or loose soil.

Reed says the club was farther away from the ball than it looked on television, and he said with the face being open, he didn’t realise the club had brushed away sand because “I didn’t feel it drag.”