Tiger fires 65, takes lead at Bay Hill

Tiger Woods pumps his fist after sinking a birdie putt on the sixth hole during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

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5:49:21 PM ET. 09/01/2014




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ORLANDO, Fla. – Through all the injuries and the swing changes, the turmoil and the teases, one thing remains certain: Tiger Woods sure knows how to get around Bay Hill.

During a steamy, near-breathless second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Woods took a massive step toward claiming his first official PGA Tour title in nearly 2 1/2 years. With two birdies in his last three holes - and more importantly, no critical mistakes on his two errant tee shots - the former World No. 1 shot a bogey-free, 7-under 65 on Friday to grab a share of the lead heading into the weekend at Arnie's Place.

“I’m comfortable up there, and I feel like I’m playing well,” said Woods, who at 10-under 134 is tied with Charlie Wi - the first time Tiger has held a share of the 36-hole lead on Tour since September 2009. “But, you know, there’s still a long way to go.”

One player not surprised by Woods’ sterling play: Ernie Els. It was the Big Easy, remember, who was paired with Woods on Sunday at the Honda Classic, where Woods threw down a 62, his lowest final round ever, and briefly scared the lead. Guess who played in Woods’ group again on Friday? Yep, Els, who joked afterward that “when I watch him on television, I see him miss a lot of putts. But with me, he’s on.”

“He should pay me,” Els quipped.

Woods, a six-time winner at Bay Hill, continued to feast on the par 5s, birdieing all four on Friday. He’s 7 under on the longest holes this week, a byproduct of his work with swing coach Sean Foley. Tiger says he’s hitting than ball farther than ever, with a “tighter ball flight” that doesn’t curve as much in the air. He loves that kind of techie talk.

“I had lost a bit of my length off the tee,” he said. “Now I’m able to get that ball out there over 300 yards and, consequently, I’m able to play the par 5s better.”

The only times he navigated trouble on Friday were on Nos. 10 and 12, when his drives sailed way left. In fact, he nearly drove it out of bounds on the par-4 10th, after he “bailed out on it,” having seen Nick Watney pump one OB on that hole when Woods was just starting his round.

On three separate occasions Friday, Woods was seen on the back of the tee, rehearsing his swing, exaggerating an over-the-top move. No surprise, then, that despite hitting 17 greens, Woods conceded he didn’t hit the ball as well in Round 2 as he did during Thursday’s 69. The power of the putter, a 35-inch Band-Aid.

“My bad days aren’t as bad as they used to be,” Woods said.

That injury to his Achilles? So Monday. The only time he tended to his left foot on Friday was to remove his shoe and hike up his white Nike socks. Not one question in his post-round news conference dealt with his health.

It felt like 2009. In more ways than one.

• • •

Take a look at how Tiger's round unfolded, shot-by-shot:

No. 18: Par 4, 458 yards

With 3-wood in hand, Tiger smacks it up the right side of the fairway at the dangerous par 4.

From 137 yards, Tiger flies over the flag and spins it back to about 15 feet.

Tiger finds the right line with his birdie try, but the ball is bumped by a spike mark and doesn't bend enough and slips by on the right. He makes the three-foot comebacker to polish off a bogey-free, 7-under 65 to take the outright lead at 10 under.

Tiger on the day: 7 under (10 under for tournament)

• • •

No. 17: Par 3, 221 yards

With the heat rising in Orlando, the galleries have thinned out a bit, so fans are able to get a good look at Tiger and his surge into a tie for the lead.

With 6-iron in hand, Tiger hits a great shot to about 14 feet under the hole. As the ball traveled in the air, Tiger yelled, "Come on! Come on! Come on!"

And he drains it for his seventh birdie of the day and takes the outright lead heading to the 18th hole.

Tiger on the day: 7 under (10 under for tournament)

• • •

No. 16: Par 5, 511 yards

Tiger has played the par 5s in 6 under for the week and this represents the last "scoring hole" on the day. And he hammers it up the right side of the fairway and should be able to get to the green in two with no problem.

With 206 yards left, Tiger backs off once to re-judge the wind and tries to play a cut, but the ball doesn't come back. He manages to hit the green, about 50 feet away. Tiger was not happy with his second shot, taking a whack at the fairway in frustration.

Tiger tracks the eagle putt right at the hole, but it comes up about a foot short and he taps in for another birdie. He is now tied with Graeme McDowell and Jason Dufner for the lead.

Tiger on the day: 6 under (9 under for tournament)

• • •

No. 15: Par 4, 467 yards

Tiger uses 3-wood off the tee and smokes it down the left side of the fairway, trickling into the intermediate cut of rough, where he gives himself a good angle at the hole.

From 192 yards, Tiger safely lands it on the green, but leaves himself 57 feet for a birdie.

The quick birdie putt is masterfully played, settling a foot past the hole and Tiger picks up another par.

Tiger on the day: 5 under (8 under for tournament)

• • •

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• • •

• • •

No. 14: Par 3, 215 yards

Tiger hits another green, hitting the left side and the ball runs about 35 feet past the hole.

Tiger finds the perfect line, but doesn't hit it quite hard enough and picks up a two-putt par. He shakes his head and cracks a half-smile after missing the birdie attempt. He is giving every putt a chance to go in today.

Tiger hasn't been as sharp on his second nine, but hasn't needed to make a par putt longer than two feet today, which always helps keep the momentum going.

Tiger on the day: 5 under (8 under for tournament)

• • •

No. 13: Par 4, 370 yards

Tiger takes iron off the tee and hits the right side of the fairway. The approach shot can mess with your nerves, with water lining the front of the green and the pin tucked on the right.

Tiger chooses not to flirt with the water and takes it left and deep, leaving himself about 40 feet for birdie.

Tiger gives the hole a scare, coming up about six inches short of another birdie, settling for a par at the toughest hole on the course.

Tiger on the day: 5 under (8 under for tournament)

• • •

No. 12: Par 5, 574 yards

For the second time in three holes, Tiger pulls his drive left, this time pulling it into the rough and near the 13th fairway. He seems to have lost confidence with driver, as he was playing this shot to fade.

He has no choice but to lay up, and puts it back out to the middle of the fairway and about 100 yards from the flag. He plays a great third shot to about eight feet, flying it past the flag and spinning it back.

He drains the putt for another birdie - his sixth on par 5s this week. He is now only one shot off the lead.

Tiger has gotten away with two bad shots over the past three holes.

Tiger on the day: 5 under (8 under for tournament)

• • •

No. 11: Par 4, 438 yards

Tiger takes 3-wood off the tee and hits a low stinger into the middle of the fairway, giving the club a twirl as he goes down to pick up his tee.

With 154 yards left to the flag, Tiger sticks it to about 14 feet under the hole for another look at birdie.

Tiger plays it a bit too much to the right and comes to rest on the lip, settling for a par. The greens are getting really spiked up, especially around the cup. That definitely knocked Tiger's birdie try off line.

Tiger on the day: 4 under (7 under for tournament)

• • •

No. 10: Par 4, 400 yards

Tiger's stress level just rose, pulling his drive off the 10th tee well to the left, with the ball bouncing off a fence to keep it in bounds. Tiger rehearses a few swings after the wild miss, the second time he has done that today. And that's scary considering he's 4 under on the day and goes to show what a hot putter can do for you.

With his butt touching the fence - he couldn't get relief on the wayward drive - Tiger plays a nice shot past the flag, hitting another green and leaving himself about 35 feet for birdie.

Tiger hits a very nice lag putt to about two feet, and taps in for a par - a good score considering where his tee ball landed.

Tiger on the day: 4 under (7 under for tournament)

• • •

No. 9: Par 4, 474 yards

After backing off once to check his alignment, Tiger swats it down the middle with driver.

With 9-iron, Tiger pulls his shot a bit left and deep, but hits his 16th straight green in regulation.

Tiger nearly holes another lengthy birdie attempt (29 feet), but the ball runs by on the left and he taps in for a par.

That's about as easy a nine as you can play. Hit every green, every fairway but one (and that was by inches) and completely stressfree. Tiger makes the turn two strokes behind the leaders.

Tiger on the day: 4 under (7 under for tournament)

Elsewhere on the course: Justin Rose also birdies Nos. 4-7 and moves to 7 under, two shots back of Graeme McDowell and Jason Dufner.

• • •

No. 8: Par 4, 460 yards

Uses 3-wood off the tee and Tiger has to be precise with his approach shot. He does well with his second and leaves it about 25 feet short.

He leaves his birdie putt about a foot short and settles for a par. Tiger hasn't had any stressful moments today, with all of his pars coming from short range.

Tiger on the day: 4 under (7 under for tournament)

• • •

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• • •

No. 7: Par 3, 199 yards

Tiger hits another green, but leaves himself more than 30 feet from under the hole for his birdie attempt.

Tiger is on a roll right now, pouring in the lengthy birdie putt, pumping his right fist as the crowd erupts. That is four in a row and is two back of the leaders.

Tiger on the day: 4 under (7 under for tournament)

• • •

No. 6: Par 5, 555 yards

After a long wait on the tee, Tiger finds the extreme right side of the fairway and should be able to reach in two, leaving himself about 240 yards to the flag. He didn't reach the green in two on Thursday.

But he does on Friday, setting himself with a solid 28-foot eagle try after a beautiful shot into the green.

His eagle putt is a slight misread, but he taps in for a third-straight birdie. He is now three shots back of Jason Dufner and Graeme McDowell.

Tiger on the day: 3 under (6 under for tournament)

• • •

No. 5: Par 4, 390 yards

Tiger takes iron after hitting 3-wood here yesterday, and blisters it down the center of the fairway.

Tiger hits his approach right over the flag and leaves himself about 11 feet for another good look at birdie.

And he drains another one, putting it right in the middle of the cup. And he heads to another par 5 to try and continue the birdie streak.

Tiger on the day: 2 under (5 under for tournament)

• • •

No. 4: Par 5, 561 yards

Tiger pounds his drive up the right side of the fairway, leaving himself less than 250 yards to the hole. He drives it about 30 yards past Mahan. He told reporters yesterday that he was dialing it back a bit with the driver and still may be doing that.

Noise from nearby construction work disrupts his swing, causing him to chunk it a bit and come up short of the green. He leaves himself with about 30 yards to a blind hole location in the back left.

He plays an aggressive pitch to about six feet with his third shot. He rams home the birdie putt to continue his assault on the par 5s (four birdies in five holes).

Tiger on the day: 1 under (4 under for tournament)

Elsewhere on the course: Graeme McDowell birdied the tough 18th hole to cap a 9-under 63 to move into a tie for the lead with Jason Dufner. Three others are in the clubhouse at 5 under (four off the lead): Bubba Watson, Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia.

• • •

No. 3: Par 4, 434 yards

Tiger takes 3-wood on this huge dogleg left hole, sending it down the right side, it flirts with the rough, but gets a good kick into the intermediate cut.

Tiger stares down the flag with his second shot and sticks it to within 12 feet for birdie.

He leaves the birdie attempt about eight inches short, his third straight legitimate birdie attempt that he didn't convert. He now heads to his first par 5 of the day.

Tiger on the day: Even (3 under for tournament)

Elsewhere on the course: Graeme McDowell is blistering hot at Bay Hill, currently 8 under on his round thru 17 holes. He is also 8 under for the tournament and one shot behind leader Jason Dufner, who shot a 3-under 69 on Friday.

• • •

No. 2: Par 3, 231 yards

The flag is on the way left at this long par 3 and Tiger attacks it and gets away with one, going a bit too far left, but holding the green and setting up an 18-foot birdie attempt. Tiger makes several rehearsal swings after his tee shot.

Tiger makes an easy par after his birdie try never really finds the right line.

Tiger on the day: Even (3 under for tournament)

• • •

No. 1: Par 4, 461 yards

It's a really warm day and virtually no breeze at Bay Hill. Tiger is wearing a white shirt and light green slacks. He's six back of Jason Dufner at the start of the day.

He hits a low stinger 3-wood off the tee, right down the middle of the fairway. With the pin on the right, Tiger lands his approach on the green and leaves himself about 12 feet for birdie.

His birdie putt slides by on the right, and settles for a par. There is a lot of foot traffic around the hole, as the birdie attempt bounced a bit on the way to the hole.

Tiger on the day: Even (3 under for tournament)

• • •

ROUND 1 COVERAGE

Tiger Woods off to a solid start

Tiger Woods took advantage of the par 5s on Thursday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, using three birdies on the long holes to propel him to an opening 3-under 69 at Bay Hill. Shot-by-shot

• • •

Charlie Wi has a change in fortune

Jeff Rude: Charlie Wi posted an octuple bogey last week at the Transitions. He had a shaky track record at Bay Hill. So, of course, he is the early leader at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Story.

• • •

Ernie Els wants to move past Transitions collapse

Bay Hill notebook: Ernie Els says that he is over his bad finish at Transitions next week, and he wants everyone else to get over it as well. Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson battles back to limit deficit. Notebook.

• • •

TOURNAMENT PREVIEW COVERAGE

Tiger says he is fine after scare

Hate To Be Rude: Tiger Woods gets a scare on Wednesday when he felt a twinge in his back, but says he is healthy and is showing a more cautious nature in dealing with injuries. Story.

• • •

Tiger needs to work on his short game

Jeff Rude: Tiger Woods seems to be healthy. And his ball-striking is impressive. It will be the work he does on the greens that will allow him to win over the next few weeks. Story.

• • •

Book review: Brad Klein weighs in on Hank Haney's book on Tiger Woods

In medicine, there’s a legally established principle of confidentially that survives the therapeutic relationship. Not so on the driving range, as Tiger Woods now knows thanks to Hank Haney's upcoming book "The Big Miss." Story.

• • •

Tiger has good and bad moments at Tavistock Cup

Tiger Woods seems to be healthy, but his game struggled a bit on Tuesday on Day 2 at the Tavistock Cup, settling for an even-par round during singles action. Round 2 recap

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