Tiger Woods shot a bogey-free round of 7-under 65 to grab a share of the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and will enter the final two rounds of a U.S. PGA Tour event as the leader for the first time since 2009.
Woods, playing in his final event before next month’s Masters Tournament, enters today’s third round as co-leader with Charlie Wi of South Korea at 10 under par.
A six-time winner of the event, Woods began his move up the leaderboard yesterday with four straight birdies on holes 4 through 7 at Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida. He then added three more birdies over his closing seven holes, a day after opening the tournament with a 3-under 69.
“It was a solid round of golf,” Woods said in a news conference. “I felt like I actually hit it better yesterday than I did today. I left a couple putts dead short, right in the center of the hole. It really could have been a really low round.”
Woods and Wi are one shot ahead of Jason Dufner and 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell, who had a 9-under 63 yesterday.
Woods, 36, has a share of the lead heading into the final two rounds of a U.S. PGA Tour event for the first time since the 2009 Tour Championship in Atlanta, where he finished second to Phil Mickelson. He also held the second-round lead at the Australian Open four months ago and finished third.
“I want to win, yes, absolutely,” Woods said. “We’ve got a long way to go. It’s not like it’s over right now.”
Wi ended the second round with four birdies over his final six holes to pull even with Woods with a 4-under 68. He will be paired with Woods in today’s third round.
‘A Good Guy’
“I’ve known Tiger since junior golf days, so I’ve known him for a long time and I’m comfortable with him,” Wi said in a news conference. “Tiger is a good guy and I look forward to playing with him tomorrow.”
Dufner, who entered the second round with at least a share of the lead for the third time this season, had birdies on his first two holes and dropped his lone shot with a bogey on the par-5 sixth for a 69.
In August, Dufner lost to Keegan Bradley in a playoff at the PGA Championship. He is winless in 160 career PGA Tour events.
Justin Rose is fifth at 6 under, one shot ahead of six players including Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia and Vijay Singh.
Woods, who withdrew from the Cadillac Championship outside Miami this month with a strained left Achilles, now has played a round on six straight days. He resumed play March 18 with a practice round at Augusta National Golf Club, site of the first major tournament of the season in Augusta, Georgia. The Masters starts April 5.
Four Masters Victories
A four-time winner of the Masters, Woods is seeking his first full-field tournament victory in 2 1/2 years.
Woods secured the latest of his 14 major titles at the 2008 U.S. Open. The most recent of his 71 titles on the U.S. PGA Tour came at the BMW Championship in September 2009. Woods won a limited-field tournament he hosts in California in December, his lone stroke-play victory over the past two years.
“I’m comfortable up there and I feel like I’m playing well,” Woods said. “We still have 36 holes to go. Still need to continue doing what I’m doing out there, just kind of plodding my way along.”
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