Woods chipped in for par, escaped from a couple of trees and wound up with a 7-under 65 to match his best start ever at Torrey Pines, building a four-shot lead over alternate Kevin Streelman as he tries to win this event for the fourth straight year.
The hard part might be reminding himself the tournament ends Sunday.
'If they handed out the trophy today, then it would be over and no big deal,' said Woods, who was at 12-under 132. 'But since we have so many more holes to play ... as you've seen on tour, anything can happen.'
In this case, 'anyone' might be more appropriate.
Streelman, a 29-year-old rookie who made it through all three stages of Q-school, was third alternate Thursday morning and was not expecting to play until someone tapped him on the shoulder to say he had four minutes to get to the tee when Matthew Goggin withdrew.
Moments earlier, Streelman had his head down hitting a few putts when he looked up and saw Woods for the first time.
'Boom! He was right there in front of me,' Streelman said. 'I was kind of awestruck for a second and I said, 'Wow, I guess I am on the PGA TOUR. It was pretty cool.'
But he still hasn't met him.
'I was too scared to do that,' Streelman said, smiling.
Two days of solid play means introductions will be in order Saturday morning on the first tee. Streelman followed his opening 67 with a 69 on the tougher South Course, which will host the U.S. Open this summer, and will be in the final group with Woods.
The world's No. 1 player said he had never heard of Streelman, and when told that he was No. 1,354 in the world ranking, Woods replied, 'I think he might be going up.'
Joining them will be Stewart Cink, who shot a 69 on the South and was another shot back at 7-under 137.
Troy Matteson got turned in the wrong direction. After a 65 on the South Course that he said he couldn't top, he was 10 shots worse on the North Course, shooting a 75 to fall eight shots behind.
For the second time in three weeks, nearly 20 guys left town with last-place money and no tee time.
The cut of top 70 and ties amounted to 85 players, and because that number exceeded 78, only 66 players advanced to the weekend. Among the casualties were Kenny Perry, Chris DiMarco and Jay Williamson, who was one of six players who signed a petition at the Sony Open to get rid of the new cut policy.
Fueling their frustration is that Jose Maria Olazabal won the Buick Invitational in 2002 after making the cut on the number. But that year, Olazabal was only eight shots behind the co-leaders, J.L. Lewis and Kent Jones.
The 19 players who made the cut and can't play the weekend were 13 shots behind Woods, who is turning this Pacific property into his personal playground.
Under sunny skies and a stiff breeze, Woods got his round going with a par. He drove it well to the right, then bladed his iron so far over the green that he was happy that his third shot stayed atop a ridge in the rough. That left him 25 feet for par, and he chipped that in. He holed a 10-foot birdie putt on the next, then made three straight birdies around the turn to seize control.
Along with chasing Woods, the biggest frustration might be weather.
The forecast was for rain to arrive Saturday afternoon, with heavy rain expected on Sunday. That leaves a dual challenge of trying to catch golf's best player and cope with potentially miserable conditions.
'Chasing Tiger Woods is always the tallest task on the PGA TOUR, so I get a chance to try again,' Cink said.
For Streelman, it's a new experience, and one he is relishing for all the right reasons.
Whereas Woods never had to go to any stage of Q-school to earn his card, Streelman has been toiling on the mini-tours since leaving college. When he learned he was in the field, he had enough time to call his fiancee in Phoenix and his sponsors in Southern California, and they rushed to Torrey Pines to watch him play.
'It's going to be, for me, very gratifying, and a tremendous learning experience,' he said. 'To be able to walk next to him, to just kind of see what he does and try and compare ... obviously, if I can keep doing what I'm doing, just play the golf course, that's all it is.'
Woods is 30-6 when having at least a share of the 36-hole lead on the PGA TOUR, but one reason that Woods closes so well is that he never takes any lead for granted -- no matter who is trying to catch him.
And the more he learned about Streelman, the more he liked his story.
'People don't realize the difference between someone making cuts, getting on the tour, and winning a golf tournament,' he said. 'It's just a couple of good shots here and there, maybe a couple of lucky breaks here and there. It really isn't as big a gap as people might think. The great thing is watching guys taking advantage of opportunities, whether they're first alternate or they get an exemption.
'Those are fun stories to see transpire.'