NASSAU, Bahamas – On his first trip to the Hero World Challenge, Jon Rahm did not need long to figure out how to score.
Being aggressive starts with keeping the ball in play. With five par 5 and a pair of achievable par 4 at the Albany Golf Club, many birdies should be available. That was the case on Friday when Rahm made birdies for a 9-year-old on half of his holes to share the lead with Henrik Stenson, who had a 66.
"I was hit so hard by the tee that I was always on the fairway with a short club," said Rahm. "I think the best way to describe it was with five par 5s and two relatively short par 4s, out of those seven holes I got six birdies, so I took advantage of the lighter holes today, apparently not much could go wrong."
Only the end of tournament director Tiger Woods was wrong, and it could have been worse.
Woods had 5 laps for his round, trying to stay in the middle of a vacation as he drove into a palm bush at the 18th hole. He dropped to one knee to throw the ball back into the grass, came in just before the green, broke off weakly and made a double bogey for a 69.
However, there were questions about this shot from the bush.
After extensive video review, it was found that he hit the ball more than once. Due to an 18-month-old ruling that limits the use of video evidence, Woods was spared the extra punishment because he did not think he had made contact twice, and this could only be detected with the naked eye using a high-resolution TV in super slow motion.
"At normal speed on a high definition television, you could not say that at all," said Mark Russell, vice president of the PGA Tour for Rules and Competition. "But slowing down to ultra-slow motion and high-definition television, you could see where the club stayed on the club floor for a long time, and it looked like he'd hit him twice, but he can not tell."
However, Woods stayed behind at his first 72-hole event since his remarkable comeback year with a win in the Tour Championship eight strokes. He was driven to 14th place with Patrick Reed, who scored the first nine on his way to a 77 out of 40.
Patrick Cantlay, who shared the 18-hole lead with Reed, had a 70 and was with Dustin Johnson, who had a 67 in a tropical retreat, but is rarely attacked.
Johnson had a pair of sloppy bogeys early on – one did not bother him too much when three-year-old son Tatum greeted him – and recovered well with four straight birdies to get in the mix.
Tony Finau had a 64 and was two shots behind.
Stenson had nearly rallied from a seven-round deficit in 2016 to bottom out last year. He had enough rest for the tendon in his left elbow to harass him on the golf course, and he wins once more if he can win this weekend.
"I'll try to make it to the finish line," Stenson said. "I have not played a lot of golf though, I've had an injury problem since the Ryder Cup, I was away for five weeks and I think I should be a little fresher than some of my colleagues calling me Hong Kong or anywhere else I'm fine, we just keep going and try to make as many birdies as we can. "
All were tied for the weekend and Jason Day was 1-1 143 down. This is proof of the good point conditions. In the second round, with the exception of two players, all players were equal – Reed and Bubba Watson had a 73.
Woods hoped to be much better, considering how he hit the ball, though he missed many chances.
"I did not really understand my putter today, I missed a few short ones," Woods said. "I hit the ball close – close enough to really have a low number today – and just did not do it."
Rahm found out the secret. He hit the tee so well, but he has no choice but to remain aggressive and attack flags, and there is no reason to stop now in his last event of the year with five players separated by only two strokes.
"On days like today, I did not really think about my swing," he said. "It was like a well-oiled machine."