AKRON, Ohio -- The round was more inconsistent, the score not as good, but Tiger Woods walked off the Firestone Country Club course Friday positive about his game 36 holes into his comeback from injury.
Woods shot 1-over-par 71 during the second round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, leaving him seven strokes back of clubhouse leaders Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler, Ryan Moore and PGA Tour rookie Keegan Bradley (8-under 132).
This is Woods' first tournament since playing just nine holes at The Players Championship in May.
"I didn't putt as well as I did yesterday and consequently I just never got the round going," Woods said.
The seven-time winner at Firestone who suffered knee and Achilles tendon injuries at the Masters -- forcing him to miss the past two major championships -- made four birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey.
Starting on the back nine, he made consecutive bogeys at the 14th and 15th holes -- he missed a 2-footer for par at No. 14 -- then followed with consecutive birdies at Nos. 17 and 18.
After four straight pars, Woods went bogey-birdie-double bogey-birdie. His double at the sixth came when he struggled from the rough behind the green. It was his first double bogey since the final hole of the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Woods hit eight fairways, three more than Thursday, and 11 greens -- one less than Thursday. He also needed 29 putts, which was two more than in his first round.
"Today was not very good," he said of his putting. "The path wasn't very good going back. It was underneath the path and it was under the plan, and it was just not very good."
But Woods was encouraged with his driving. As was the case Thursday, Woods said he is hitting the ball farther, somewhat to his surprise.
"I know my stats don't show it, but just the way I'm driving the golf ball, the start lines are so much tighter, and the shape of the shots are so much tighter. ... I'm so close to putting that ball on a string, so it's coming," he said.
Woods has a lot of work to do to get back into the tournament. Scott added a 70 to his first-round 62, and Fowler -- seeking his first PGA Tour victory -- shot 64 to tie him. Moore had 66 in benign scoring conditions.
"The last time I shot 62 was probably a long time ago, so am I going to expect to do it two days in a row?" Scott said. "I don't think so. But it's a hard golf course, and if you're just a little off, you get quite severely penalized. There's no real secret that it's not easy to shoot a couple of 62s."
Fowler was all over the place. He made only five pars, and kept his gallery guessing the rest of the time. There were three straight birdies, and a wedge he holed from 110 yards for eagle on No. 3. He followed that with three bogeys and three pars.
"A lot of good things came out of today," said Fowler, who is still searching for his first win. "Building some confidence going into the weekend."
No one appeared to have more fun than Bradley, the nephew of LPGA Hall of Fame player Pat Bradley and a winner this year at the Byron Nelson Championship. With big crowds lingering even after Woods left the course, he could hear plenty of cheers for birdies all around him, and even some for himself as he worked his way to the top of the leaderboard.
"I had Luke Donald behind me, Phil Mickelson a few groups behind me," Bradley said. "I mean, it's something that I dream about since I was 2 years old. It's kind of happening in front of my eyes, which is a weird feeling to describe. But it's spectacular. I just can't express how much fun I'm having out there."
His biggest birdie came at No. 3, even though it was only a 12-foot putt.
Bradley played a money game with Mickelson on Wednesday, in which Mickelson serves as a mentor until the final holes when the four-time major champion cares only about getting into Bradley's pocket. Mickelson pointed to a hole location that can be tricky. The putt looks as if it should break right, but it actually moves left.
"And sure enough, I had this exact putt he brought me over to," Bradley said. "I wanted to make it so bad so I could go back and tell him later tonight."
Mickelson was among those who couldn't keep up with 31 guys who broke par in the second round.
He holed out from the 11th fairway for eagle, but followed that with a double bogey on the par-3 12th, and finished with a pair of bogeys for a 73 that put him at even par, eight shots behind.
Geoff Ogilvy had a tough time. The former U.S. Open champion was two shots out of the lead and playing the easiest hole at Firestone, the par-5 second, when he four-putted from 35 feet for double bogey, and finished an annoying round with back-to-back bogeys that dropped him back to a 70 and put him at 2-under 138.
The starting times for Saturday were moved to the early morning because of storms anticipated in the afternoon. Saturday could go a long way in sorting out who has control of the final tournament before the PGA Championship next week in Atlanta.
Woods is not out of it yet, but his short game was of no help to him. The shocker was the 2-foot par putt he missed on the 14th, followed by another bogey on the 15th set up by an ordinary chip. His back nine was marred by a double bogey when his approach from the rough went just beyond the green and took a wicked hop into a suspect lie in the bunker.
He could have escaped with par except for a three-putt from 50 feet.
"I didn't putt as well as I did yesterday," he said, "and consequently, I just never got the round going."
For those ahead of him, it's off to the races.
Twenty players were separated by only four shots going into the final two rounds, a group that includes U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker, Nick Watney and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, who was three shots behind.
Bob Harig is the golf writer for ESPN.com. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.