Woods takes lead at Dunlop Phoenix

Woods is looking to become only the second player to win the $1.69 million Dunlop Phoenix in three straight years.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2006 18:19 IST

Tiger Woods, boosted by an early eagle, shot a 5-under-par 65 on Friday to take one-stroke lead into the second half of the Dunlop Phoenix golf tournament.

Woods, the two-time defending champion, used an early eagle at Phoenix Country Club to post a two-round 8-under 132, a stroke ahead of Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who shot a 66 on Friday. "I'm very happy to shoot that and to have that be the lead is awfully nice," Woods said of his round.

Woods, who took a five-week layoff before contesting last week's HSBC Champions at Shanghai, is looking to become only second player to win the $1.69 million (euro1.32 million) Dunlop Phoenix three straight years. Japan's Jumbo Ozaki won it from 1994 to 1996. "Hitting the ball as well as I did today, it was a nice positive sign going into, potentially, a very difficult weekend," said Woods, referring to the forecast for stormy weather. "I hit a lot of good shots," added Woods, who started the second round two strokes back. "I just need to clean up a bit and I should be all right. You can't miss it around this course and expect to win. These greens are too difficult and this year with the rough being up, you've really got to hit good tee shots as well." While Woods is in a good position to defend his title, some quality players are close behind, including Harrington, whose solid round included a lone bogey at the par-3 11th, where his 7-iron found the pond guarding the green.

Harrington said he looked forward to playing the third round with Woods.

"I'm happy for the opportunity," said Harrington. "You've got to play with Tiger if you're going to win the majors basically and the more you play with him, the more familiar you get, the easier it is to play with him, so I always see it as an opportunity." Englishman Ian Poulter, who finished tied for second behind Woods at the American Express Championship seven weeks ago, continued his recent good form with a 64 to sit two stokes off the lead in third place.

Three of Poulter's seven birdies were tap-ins, and two others were from inside 10 feet.

"I hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, had an awful lot of chances," Poulter said. "I'm in form, just playing the way I've played all year."

As well as Poulter played; it wasn't enough to catch Woods, who made his eagle at the par-5 fourth, where he chipped in from 25 feet.

"To be honest, I hit it too hard," Woods said. "If I'd missed, it would have gone about six feet by, but it caught the right edge and it went in.

"Conditions were a little easier than yesterday and you could see some of the guys really went low today. You had to shoot something in the mid 60s in order to have a chance of getting in that final group."

It wasn't all smooth sailing, though. At the par-4 17th, he pushed his drive up against a temporary fence. Though he was granted a free drop, trees blocked his route to the green, so he chipped out sideways and settled for a bogey rather than risk try for a miracle shot.

Overnight leader Shingo Katayama of Japan fell three shots back after a 70, while Englishman Justin Rose carded the day's best score, a 63, to move within four of the lead.

Rose had four birdies on the front nine and added four more after the turn. His only bogey of the day came on the par-4 12th hole.

First Published: Nov 17, 2006 18:19 IST