Woods tightens grip at Chevron

Sat, 04 Dec 00:24:00 2010

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.

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Seeking his first tournament win since the 2009 Australian Masters, the former world number one recovered from a faltering start to fire a four-under-par 68 at Sherwood Country Club.

Boosted by a three-birdie run on the front nine and two more in the last three holes, Woods closed in on his fifth victory at his own event by posting a 17-under total of 199.

He struck a superb eight-iron approach at the par-four last to within a foot, sparking huge roars from the gallery watching from the natural amphitheatre below the imposing clubhouse.

His playing partner, US Open champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, was alone in second after carding a 68 with Englishman Paul Casey (69) a further four shots back in third.

"I'm excited about tomorrow because of the way I've been playing," Woods said after putting himself in prime position to complete his first wire-to-wire victory since the 2006 WGC-American Express Championship.

"I'm excited how I've been hitting the golf ball and how I've been managing my game around this golf course."

Woods has never lost a tournament in which he has led by at least three strokes going into the final round and he has coped well this week on Sherwood's lightning-fast greens.

"It was a pretty good day overall," said the 14-times Major winner, who embarked on the fourth swing change of his career in August, a move which now seems to paying dividends.

"I thought I hit the ball a little bit better than I did yesterday. The greens were tough and a few more difficult pins today so they were tough to get at.

"But four under is a good score. I tied Graeme today, so no loss between my lead."

Four ahead overnight, Woods had his lead swiftly halved when he bogeyed the par-five second after pulling his second shot left into a water hazard to slip back to 12 under.

Ice-cool McDowell, who birdied that hole to close within two, picked up another shot at the par-three third where he rolled in a six-footer.

With his advantage trimmed to one, Woods regained control with a three-birdie run from the par-five fifth where he got up and down from a buried lie in a greenside bunker.

He coaxed in a slick 20-foot putt at the sixth before pumping his right fist in celebration and got to 15 under after hitting his approach to three feet at the seventh.

As the former world number one walked down the seventh fairway, a fan yelled out: 'Welcome back Tiger".

Out in two-under 34, Woods maintained his grip on the tournament with further birdies at the 11th, 16th and the last.

He did well to save par from a greenside bunker at the 14th, where he drained an 18-footer, and recorded his only other bogey of the day at the par-three 15th with a three-putt.

Overall, though, Woods has looked like his former dominant self this week after struggling on and off the course since his private life unravelled at the end of last year amid sordid revelations of serial philandering.

He took a five-month break from the game in an unsuccessful bid to repair his marriage, parted company with his former swing coach Hank Haney in May and linked up with Canadian swing coach Sean Foley after the US PGA Championship in August.

"Tiger kept the ball under control today," said McDowell, whose own round featured five birdies and a lone bogey. "He barely missed a fairway. That's more like him of course.

"It's good to see him playing well. I'm enjoying the way these greens look and I'm putting well, so I've just got to hit it good tomorrow and get off to a fast start."

Woods's best halfway showing of 2010

Reuters

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