Orlando, FL – Tiger Woods' seven-under 65 on Friday gave the six-time former champion a piece of the second-round lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Woods finished at 10-under 134 and was joined in first by first-round co- leader Charlie Wi, who birdied two of his last three on Friday. Wi shot a four-under 68 at Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
After he withdrew from the WGC-Cadillac Championship less than two weeks ago with an Achilles injury, Woods felt good enough to play the Tavistock Cup on Monday and Tuesday.
Now he owns the 36-hole lead for the first time on the PGA Tour since the 2009 Tour Championship.
"It hasn't been that long, you know. I had the lead at Abu Dhabi this year," Woods said, referring to a European Tour event. "So it really has not been as long as people might think it has been. I'm comfortable up there and I feel like I'm playing well."
There is a long way to go, but this was an impressive step. Yes, he is a six- time winner at Bay Hill, but Woods has yet to win an official event since the career-rattling scandal.
He is well aware that nothing has been decided.
"We've got a long way to go," Woods said. "It's not like it's over right now. We've got 36 holes to go."
Wi is winless on the PGA Tour, but finished second this year at Pebble Beach.
Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, torched Bay Hill for a nine- under 63 on Friday. He is tied for third place with Jason Dufner, who shared the first-round lead. Dufner shot a three-under 69 in round two and matched McDowell at nine-under 135.
The headlines on Friday belonged to Tiger.
Woods made his climb up the leaderboard starting at No. 4. He drained a seven- foot birdie putt at four, then followed with a 10-foot birdie putt at the very next hole.
At the sixth, Woods reached the green in two, and two-putted from 30 feet for another birdie. He was six-under for the championship, but a fourth consecutive birdie, a 32-footer at seven, put everyone in the field on notice.
There was some shaky play after the great birdie run, including a dreadful drive at 10. Woods was able to save par after the errant tee ball, then he sank a nine-foot birdie putt at the par-five 12th to get to minus-eight.
After three straight pars, Woods two-putted from 50 feet for birdie at the par-five 16th. That birdie tied him with McDowell and Dufner, but he went by them with a 15-foot birdie putt at 17.
A par at the last and Woods was back in a familiar, and once, routine position.
"It was a solid round of golf," said Woods. "I felt like I actually hit it better yesterday than I did today. I've made more putts today for sure. I left a couple putts dead short, right in the center of the hole. Actually it really could have been a really low round today.
"A lot of positives today."
The same could be said for Wi.
He began on the 10th tee Friday and tallied two birdies in his first seven holes. That good play was negated by bogeys at 18 and three, but Wi played brilliantly late.
Wi poured in a 10-foot birdie putt at the fourth and drained a 17-footer for birdie at No. 5. He'd fallen two behind Woods, who was already in the clubhouse when Wi made his move up the leaderboard.
Wi ran home a 13-foot birdie try at seven and, with a chance to tie Woods, sank a 25-footer for birdie at his last to get into Saturday's final pairing with Woods.
Justin Rose, who won at Doral the same day Woods withdrew, had a three-under 69 on Friday and is alone in fifth at six-under 138.
Bubba Watson (70), Sergio Garcia (67), Vijay Singh (68), Chris Stroud (69), Webb Simpson (66) and Zach Johnson (68) share sixth at minus-five.
NOTES: Defending champion Martin Laird carded a four-under 68 and moved into a tie for 12th at four-under par...Ernie Els, who needs a solo third or better this week to move into the top 50 in the world rankings, and therefore, into the field for the Masters, had a two-under 70 and is tied for 15th at three- under...Phil Mickelson was one-under on Friday and shares 35th at even- par...The 36-hole cut fell at three-over par and Robert Garrigus and Sang-Moon Bae, who both lost in a playoff last week at the Transitions Championship, missed the cut.