Tiger Woods posts 65, up two

Updated: March 9, 2013, 8:42 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

DORAL, Fla. -- The magic he found on the Doral putting green earlier this week continued Friday for Tiger Woods, who rolled in a slew of birdie putts to take the 36-hole lead over a star-packed leaderboard at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Woods, who has won three times at Doral and has captured this World Golf Championship event six times, gave himself numerous chances with a solid ballstriking round in which he barely missed a green.

His 7-under 65 gave him a two-shot lead over 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and a three-shot advantage over Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker.

Woods has won 26 of 31 times when he has the outright 36-hole lead in his PGA Tour career.

On Wednesday, Stricker gave Woods some advice during a 45-minute session on the practice green, one that has led to two days of exceptional work on the greens.

"I've always liked the way he putts it," Stricker said. "We've talked a lot about it over the years. We have the same ideas, although we do different things to get it there. We have the same principles. He's open to hearing what I have to say sometimes."

This time, it worked, as Woods made nine birdies Thursday and added eight more Friday. He has had 22 one-putt greens in the tournament, and on Friday he hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation.

"That's a good start. You know, I'm playing well and I made a bunch of putts," Woods said. "But more importantly, I left myself in the right spots to make putts and I think that's probably the biggest key is that I left myself where I didn't have that many downwind, downhill, downgrain, downwind putts.

"I kept leaving myself where I could be aggressive."

The 17 birdies over two rounds set a personal best for Woods. His previous high of 16 birdies came in the 1999 Byron Nelson Classic. Asked what that meant, Woods smiled and replied, "It left me a two-shot lead."

Woods was at 13-under 131.

For a time, it appeared Mickelson would play his way into a third-round pairing with Woods, reprising their epic 2005 final-round duel here in which Woods prevailed by a stroke to regain the No. 1 world ranking.

But McDowell had other ideas, birdieing his last two holes for a 67.

"I saw Phil sneaking up the leaderboard there behind me, and I said to (caddie) Kenny (Comboy), 'Let's spoil this party tomorrow,' " McDowell said. "I'm sure they would have liked Tiger and Phil in the last group tomorrow, would have been great for the tournament, but I certainly will enjoy the position of being in the last group and the mix. That's right where I want to be.

"Great to see the best players in the game playing as well as they are. Always exciting to have Tiger and Phil playing well. It brings the crowds and puts people behind their TV screens, and that's what's important."

Mickelson has shot 67-67 after an early-week visit to Augusta National to scout the Masters venue.

"I saw Tiger was playing well and I wanted to make a couple birdies to get in the group with him," Mickelson said. "It seems since 2007, when we played at Deutsche Bank in Boston, I've been playing some of my best golf when we get paired together.

"I hope that tomorrow that I play a good round and so does he, and we get a chance to get paired together in Sunday's final round, because he seems to somehow bring out my best golf."

Tiger Woods
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesTiger Woods' slew of birdie putts saw him take over the 36-hole lead at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson (69) is in fifth place, four strokes back, with past major champions Charl Schwartzel (65) and Keegan Bradley (68) also in contention.

Rory McIlroy, who played with Woods during the first two rounds, shot his first sub-par score (69) of 2013, which included six birdies.

When his 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 10th hole swirled into the cup, the world's No. 1 player was under par for the first time all week on the Blue Monster. He rattled in three more birdies on the back nine and at one point he saw his mother, Rose, walking along in the gallery.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm in red numbers,' " McIlroy said with a laugh. "But you know, it's good. It's nice to shoot something in the 60s and definitely build on over the next couple of days."

McIlroy said he had a good session on the practice range Thursday evening and felt as though he hit the ball better, though still not as well as he can.

"But it was better," he said. "I saw a lot of positives. I hit a really good 6-iron into the eighth hole and hit a great 3-wood off the 10th. I saw a lot of good signs out there."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ALSO SEE

ESPN TOP HEADLINES