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A confident Woods takes the lead

He makes two eagles in a five-under 67 and has a three-stroke advantage in Chevron World Challenge.

December 03, 2011|Jim Peltz
  • Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the 16th hole Friday during the second round of the Chevron World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club.
Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the 16th hole Friday during the second… (Allan Henry / US Presswire )

With two eagles on his card, Tiger Woods had surged into the lead in the Chevron World Challenge when something odd happened at the 15th hole.

Woods hit what he thought was a "perfect" eight-iron Friday at the 186-yard par three at Sherwood Country Club, except the ball fell short and into a pond guarding the front of the green.

That gave Woods a double bogey, yet he still gained two shots on first-round leader K.J. Choi because the usually steady Choi -- who was paired with Woods -- hit two balls into the pond and wound up with a quadruple-bogey seven.

Despite his misstep, Woods finished with a five-under-par 67 and took a three-shot lead over Choi and Matt Kuchar at the halfway point of the tournament, an 18-player event in Thousand Oaks that benefits Woods' charities.

Choi finished with a one-over 73 and Kuchar, who last weekend teamed with Gary Woodland to win the World Cup in China, shot 67.

Zach Johnson, who reeled off six consecutive birdies, and Hunter Mahan were four shots behind Woods at four-under 140. Johnson, the 2007 Masters winner, also shot 67 and Mahan a 68.

Woods has won the charity event four times but not since 2007, and he hasn't won any tournament in the last two years while dropping to 52nd in the world rankings.

He came close at this tournament last year when he had a four-shot lead over Graeme McDowell at the halfway point. But Woods ultimately lost to McDowell in a playoff.

But after recovering from injuries and adapting to a new swing since then, Woods played well in Australia ahead of the Chevron World Challenge and carried his improved play and confidence to Sherwood.

"I know I'm playing better," Woods said. "It's nice to see my position on the leaderboard kind of equating to it."

His confidence is so improved that Woods began tinkering with a different putting grip after the first round Thursday.

"I kind of go back and forth" with the grips, Woods said. "I'm trying to do anything I can to basically get my shoulders square" while standing over putts.

Woods and the other players also had to overcome another day of gusty winds whipping through the course, which sits next to the Santa Monica Mountains, although the winds were not nearly as powerful as they were Thursday.

Indeed, Choi said his meltdown at the 15th hole "was really misjudgment on the wind on the tee shots" and Woods likewise said his ball hit the water because "I caught the wrong gust."

Choi also said he didn't sleep well Thursday night, "not that that's an excuse. I just wasn't really feeling all that great."

"But the good thing about it is that I'm still in it and just need to get a lot of rest today," Choi said.

Woods surged early in his round Friday. On the second hole, a 531-yard par five, he used a five-iron for his second shot to reach the green in two, then made an eagle putt. He did the same on another par-five, the 522-yard 11th hole.

He nearly had a third eagle on the par-five 13th when his third shot, a chip from just off the green, stopped on the lip of the cup.

Elsewhere in the field, Rickie Fowler of Murrieta shot 70 and was three under for the tournament, five shots behind Woods.

james.peltz@latimes.com

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