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After bogey-free round, Tiger Woods 'thankful' back issues are in the past

NORTON, Mass. -- For the second time in his past three rounds, Tiger Woods played 18 holes without a bogey -- something he had been unable to do once in the 68 rounds he played prior to his first bogey-free round of 2018 a week ago.

Of course, he hardly played during that time period dating to 2015, as he was sidelined because of back issues that have been well-chronicled. Woods often reflects on that part of his past to keep things in perspective.

One of those times came Friday, and Woods was reminded of a tweet he sent on Aug. 31, 2017, which had a video of him chipping at his home course in Florida, having been cleared for the first time to do so some four months after spinal fusion surgery.

"I've gone back to that and just been so thankful that I had the opportunity to start chipping again, start progressing," Woods said Saturday at TPC Boston, where he shot a 5-under-par 66 at the Dell Technologies Championship. "And never would have dreamt that I'd be in this position. Just so thankful that everything turned out the way it did."

Woods had one of this better rounds of the year on Saturday, even if the score wasn't his lowest. He hit 12 of 14 fairways, 14 of 18 greens and took only 27 putts, despite four lip-outs.

At 138 and 4-under par, Woods is in a tie for 21st, seven shots back of second-round leader Webb Simpson.

With a new putter in his bag, he still had a few he'd like to have back, but he nonetheless ranked 23rd in the field in strokes gained putting, and he is 14th overall for the tournament.

"I played well today, hit it well, really rolled it on my lines," he said. "A couple didn't go in, but it was a good, solid day all-around. I felt a lot better with my irons. Yesterday I hit a couple of bad ones, today I did not. The only bad shot I hit today my tee shot on 8 [a par-3]. I stuck it in the ground. But other than that, it was a good day."

This is Woods' 16th tournament of the year, his fourth in five weeks, with next week's BMW Championship a fifth tourney in six weeks. It's as much tournament golf as Woods has played in five years, and there have been only three years with this many tournaments going back to 2015.

There has been a sense the past two weeks that Woods, 42, might be tiring, given the grind of so many tournaments coupled with the need to practice. This is the second of four FedEx Cup playoff events, and Woods has already qualified for the BMW, with a chance to make the Tour Championship later this month if he can stay among the top 30 in FedEx points. He is currently 25th.

But Saturday hardly looked like a sweat. Woods was smooth off the tee, something that has been an issue for most of the year, but he seemed to turn the corner last week with an adjustment to his driver loft and shaft.

"I'm keeping the ball in play a little better," he said. "I can cheer for my bad ones. They're hanging in there. A couple of tee shots were kind of borderline, still in the fairway. I think that's probably the biggest difference. It's a lot easier the last couple of days. The last couple of tournaments, I've driven the ball so much better, given myself better chances."

But Woods -- who was 3-over par through his first seven holes of the tournament -- created a hole with his first-round 72.

"I've got some work to do still," he said. "This is a golf course you can't sit still on. You have to keep making birdies, you have to keep getting after it. Conditions are going to be like this the rest of the weekend. You're going to see plenty of birdies out there."