Pacesetting Woods tightens grip at own tournament

Tiger Woods gave himself extra reason to smile after stretching his lead to a commanding four shots in the second round of the Chevron World Challenge on Friday.

other Updated: Dec 05, 2010 09:31 IST

Tiger Woods gave himself extra reason to smile after stretching his lead to a commanding four shots in the second round of the Chevron World Challenge on Friday.

Hunting his first victory of a year he has described as "very painful" on and off the course, Woods looked much more like his former self as he fired a flawless six-under-par 66 at Sherwood Country Club.

One ahead overnight after opening with a sparkling 65 in his own tournament, the four-times champion mixed four birdies with an eagle three at the second to post a 13-under total of 131.

For the second day in a row, Woods mastered the five par-fives on the scenic layout framed by the Santa Monica Mountains, covering those holes in five under to tighten his grip on the elite 18-player event.

"There's been 10 par-fives so far and I've played them in 10 under, so that's pretty good," Woods told reporters after putting himself in good position to win for the first time since the 2009 Australian Masters.

"I didn't hit the ball quite as sharp as I did yesterday but I felt better with the putter," he said after totalling 30 putts. "I hit a lot of pure putts and made a bunch of five or six-footers all day. I also managed my game really well, too."

Woods has not held the outright lead after 36 holes since last year's Australian Masters and he was delighted to be back in territory where he has flourished for much of his career.

"It feels good," he said. "I've been here before so it's not a strange feeling. Tomorrow is the same game plan, just go out there, plot my way along and take care of the par fives."

U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell carded a 68 to lie second at nine under, one ahead of fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy (70) and Englishman Luke Donald (66).

Britain's Paul Casey was alone at six under after holing out with a seven-iron at the par-three 12th en route to a bogey-free 65, the lowest round of the day.

Woods, however, never looked back after strengthening his hold on the tournament at the par-five second.

From the first cut of rough on the left, he struck a superb high fade with a four-iron to set up an eagle putt from 10 feet which he coolly drained.

The former world number one raised his right hand to acknowledge the hooting and hollering from the gallery packed behind the green and went on to birdie the fourth, fifth, 11th and 16th.

For Woods, this was another rare day to savour after struggling on and off the course since his private life unravelled at the end of last season amid sordid revelations of serial philandering.

He took a five-month break from the game in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to repair his marriage and embarked on the fourth swing change of his career in August.

On Friday, however, he hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and exuded confidence as he smiled to the fans and continually chatted with his playing partner McIlroy.

"I enjoy playing with Rory," the 34-year-old American said. "We were chatting about different types of subjects. He's one of the best players in the world. He's got so much talent."

McIlroy trailed Woods by three playing the last but he double-bogeyed 18 after overhitting his approach and then chipping long from behind the green.

"Obviously not a nice way to finish but, other than that, I actually played pretty nicely," the 21-year-old said. "My iron play was really good and I thought I drove the ball nicely."

McDowell, who finished second here last year, was relieved to finish at nine under after not playing his 'A' game.

"Not my best ball-striking day," he said after recording eight birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey at the ninth. "I wasn't quite sure where it was going to go but I hung tough.

"To shoot three under and not play my best, I'm pretty happy with that. I'm looking forward to the weekend."

First Published: Dec 05, 2010 09:29 IST