Tiger Keeps Opponents at Bay
Early Friday, it appeared as if any number of upper-echelon players would contend for the title. Instead, it may prove to be a weekend whitewashing.
Woods fired the low round of the tournament, a 7-under-par 65, to move to 12-under 132. Only a bogey ' his first in 76 holes ' at the par-4 eighth kept the field within shouting distance.
Scott McCarron is Tigers nearest rival. He shot 68 to get within four at minus 8.
Tiger is obviously playing really well right now, so its going to be tough to catch him. But theres a lot of golf left, McCarron said.
'This golf course is playing very difficult. Anything can happen.'
Ernie Els (67) and Angel Cabrera (70) are five back.
Two weeks ago, the roles were reversed. Els led Woods by four strokes after 36 holes at Doral, and eight by rounds end Saturday. Woods made a charge Sunday ' shooting 66 ' but came up a couple of shots short.
Els went on to win snap an 18-month winless drought on the PGA Tour, and then won the following week at the European Tours Dubai Desert Classic. Friday, after receiving a little advice from his swing coach, David Leadbetter, the South African made his bid for three in a row.
It was just a little tip he gave me, to square up my hips a little bit more, Els said after hitting 13 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation.
Els' ball striking resulted in five birdies and no bogeys. He did, however, miss a handful of really short birdie putts, which could have turned a good round into a great one.
Those extra strokes are now weighing heavily on his scorecard.
Woods started the day tied for the lead at 5-under, but lost that position when Els entered the clubhouse. He made a 20-foot birdie at the par-4 10th ' his first hole ' to move closer, and then tied for the top spot with an eight-footer at the 12th.
Tiger reclaimed the outright lead with another 20-foot birdie putt at No. 14. Two holes later, with his confidence brimming, he hit an 8-iron out of the right fairway bunker, 15 feet from the hole. He made the putt to take a two-shot lead at 9-under.
I hit a good, positive shot on 10 out of the fairway bunker. I said, Just try and do the same thing, and it came out absolutely perfect, Woods said.
Asked if he would have tried to go for the green was he not playing as well, Woods responded, No.
Tiger added four more birdies to his card on his back nine, missing a 40-foot eagle putt by an inch on the par-5 sixth. His lone blemish came at the eighth, when he pushed a 3-wood into the trees and had to punch out. He hit a sand wedge to 10 feet, but, this time, the putt wouldnt fall.
Nevertheless, hes in prime position to become the first player to win three Bay Hill titles, let alone three consecutive
I feel comfortable with the lead, and I would much rather be in the lead than come from behind, said Woods, who is 13 of 17 in converting 36-hole leads on the PGA Tour.
A host of big names are jumbled in the top 10, well back of Woods. John Daly is six off the pace after a 1-under 71. Daly was forced to wait on every shot Friday. His Day-1 playing partner, Greg Norman, withdrew prior to the second round. Norman opened in 1-under 71, but complained about a twinge in his back, leaving Daly to play in a twosome with Kirk Triplett.
John Huston (71) is also at minus 6. Sergio Garcia (71) and Jose Maria Olazabal (68) are among a group seven back at 5-under.
I wanted to post another 69 or 68 and be right up there, but, unfortunately, I couldnt ' I had my chances, Garcia said.
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Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.