Tiger Woods holds share of lead

Updated: March 23, 2012, 8:46 PM ET
By Farrell Evans | ESPN.com

ORLANDO, Fla. -- On Friday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Tiger Woods looked like the player who had won the tournament a record six times.

His second-round 7-under 65 gives him a two-day total of 10 under, and with 36 holes to play, he has a share of the lead with Charlie Wi.

Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell had an eagle-par-birdie finish for a 63, while Jason Dufner extended his solid play on the Florida swing with a 69. They were 1 shot behind at 135.

"I didn't hit it quite as good as I did yesterday, but I putted better today," said Woods, who shot a 3-under-par 69 on Thursday. "It was a solid round of golf."

Woods hasn't won an official PGA Tour event since the 2009 BMW Championship. The last time he held the lead going into the weekend at an official event was the 2009 Tour Championship, where he eventually finished second. In November, he held the lead after the second round of the Australian Open, but finished third.

"I'm comfortable in the lead, but we have a long way to go. I just have to continue plodding my way along," Woods said.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesTiger Woods is 10 under and has a share of the lead after two rounds at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

For most of Friday, Woods had that characteristic confident twirl with his club after a good drive. His ballstriking and distance control were mostly razor sharp.

Woods hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation on Friday, his best since the 2008 Buick Invitation at Torrey Pines, which he won by 8 shots. He also hit 10 of 14 fairways on Friday. On the four fairways he missed, he didn't miss by much.

Woods, playing alongside Hunter Mahan and Ernie Els, looked comfortable in front of the customary large crowds in the golf-rich Orlando area where he lived for 15 years before moving last year into a reported $55 million mansion in Jupiter, Fla. On Friday, he looked every bit the part of a 14-time major champion with 71 career tour wins.

On his front nine, Woods had four straight birdies that helped him to 4-under 32. One of the highlights was a curling 32-foot birdie putt at the par-3 seventh hole. On the back nine, he took the lead from Dufner and McDowell, who had shared the lead at 9 under for most of the day, with birdies at 16 and 17.

Woods' last win at Bay Hill came in 2009, when he shot a final-round 67 to edge Sean O'Hair by a shot. Last year, he was 2 over on the weekend and finished in a tie for 24th.

In 2012, putting has been a major reason why Woods hasn't entered the winner's circle. He was in contention in the final rounds of Abu Dhabi and Honda, but his putter failed him. At the Accenture Match Play, he missed a 5-foot birdie at the 18th hole to force his match with Nick Watney to extra holes.

"I had really good control of my speed today on the greens," Woods said. "I really focused on having really good speed on every putt."

Wi and Woods grew up in Southern California and have known each other since their junior days, though Wi is four years older.

"Tiger is the man, and it's going to be fun tomorrow," Wi said.

The best round came from McDowell, and it was a reminder of how far he has come in one year. McDowell had a dream season in 2010 by winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, winning the decisive point for Europe in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, then ending the year with a record comeback against Woods in the Chevron World Challenge.

McDowell had a hard time managing his time, much less his expectations, and the eye-opener was at Bay Hill last year when he shot 80.

This time, McDowell was 17 shots better.

"That 80 was a wake-up call, but I didn't wake up for another four months or so," McDowell said. "It was more of the panic button. It was a pretty awful four or five months for me.

"But like I say, I feel like you learn more from those types of experiences than you do from shooting 63 at Bay Hill. There's not much to learn out there except that if you play great and hole some putts, you can go low."

That's just what he did.

Dufner set the early pace and was the first to reach 10 under until going for the green on the par-5 sixth, misjudging the wind and going into the water to make bogey. Even so, it was another solid round in Florida. Dufner had the lead going into the weekend at Innisbrook, and now he is 1 shot behind at Bay Hill.

"I think any given day, I can go out and shoot 5 or 6 under, do it pretty comfortably," Dufner said. "If the putter were to get hot, I feel like I could shoot some lower scores. There has not been a lot of stressful situations that last two or three weeks."

The stress might pick up Saturday. Woods brings energy to the course when he's around the lead, especially at Bay Hill, and especially when it's been so long since he has won on the PGA Tour. He has gone 27 PGA Tour events without a trophy.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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