Saturday Showdown at East Lake
Duval, who attended college at nearby Georgia Tech, carded five birdies and three bogeys on Friday for a second-round 68 to move to 7-under-par through 36 holes, one shot clear of Woods and Chris Perry at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga.
Woods, paired with Perry in the second round, started slowly, but fought back for a 4-under-par 66 to tie his Friday playing partner, who shot 65, for second place. Vijay Singh and Paul Azinger are tied for fourth place at 5-under. First-round leader Ernie Els is now three shots off the pace at 4-under-par, tied with David Toms and Phil Mickelson in sixth position.
Thursday, Els posted a bogey-free 64. Friday, the South African carded a birdie-free 72. Els managed 16 pars and two bogeys in the second round.
'Sometimes, it's hard when you go for a great score to go out there and find it again,' said Els. 'I was trying to force the issue. It starts to get to you a little bit when you can't get your swing going. But that's golf.'
For most, Friday proved to be a struggle down the stretch. Mickelson was 7-under for the tournament through 15 holes, before finishing double bogey-par-bogey for a round of 1-under-par 69. Likewise, Perry made his way to 7-under-par, until a bogey 4 at the last dropped him into a tie for second.
Duval also dropped a shot coming home, bogeying the par-4 17th. However, the 2000 Buick Challenge champion's round could have been worse had it not been an unsuspecting birdie at the par-5 15th.
Coming off birdies at the 13th and 14th holes, Duval placed his tee shot at the 15th in prime position down the middle of the fairway. However, when the world's No. 3- ranked player approached his ball, he found a clump of mud covering his Titleist. Duval's second shot came squirting off his clubhead, straight into the right rough. From there, Duval could do no better than the greenside bunker, where he holed out for an unorthodox birdie 4.
'I didn't come here thinking that I have to just beat Tiger,' Duval said. 'If you get caught up competing against one player, you're not going to win golf tournaments that you maybe should.'
While many were trying to keep their Friday rounds from unraveling coming home, Tiger found trouble right from the start. Woods bogeyed two of his first five holes in the second round - this from a man who went 110 straight holes without a negative number.
But just when it looked like Tiger' streak of 40-consecutive sub-par rounds was in jeopardy, the world's top player birdied the 7th, 9th, 11th and 14th holes.
He wasn't done.
Tiger eagled the par-5 15th to move to 6-under-par for the tournament, momentarily tying him for the lead. His third bogey of the day dropped him back to 5-under, yet once again, Woods responded in typical-Tiger fashion by carding his final birdie of the day at the 17th.
'I'm right back in the tournament,' said Woods, who is trying to join Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan as the only men to win 10 Tour events in one season.
'It'll be fun to play with my partner (at the World Cup),' Tiger added.
'He's the standard right now by which you're comparing your golf,' Duval said of Woods. 'I want to go out and play good golf, and show him I can play too.'
To do so, Duval will have to improve upon his past performances when paired with Woods.
This will be the third time this season Woods and Duval have been paired together over the weekend. The two first played in the final round of the GTE Byron Nelson Classic. Tiger shot 63 to tie for 4th. Duval shot 70 to tie for 20th.
The most memorable meeting between the top two Americans came in the final round of the British Open. Playing in the final group, Woods shot 69 to take home the Claret Jug. Duval shot 75 to fall into a tie for 11th.
This is also the second time in as many years the two have faced each other head-to-head at the Tour Championship. Last year, Woods and Duval played the first round together at the Champions Club in Houston, Tx. Woods fired 67 and went on to win the event. Duval carded a 70 and finished the week tied for 15th.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."