Looking like his old imposing self, Tiger Woods surged into the third round lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational yesterday, setting his sights on an eighth Bay Hill title and retaking the world No.1 ranking.
Four behind overnight leaders Justin Rose and Bill Haas when the day began, Woods walked off the course to wild cheers and in full command after returning a brilliant six-under 66 to take a two-shot lead over the fifth ranked Briton Rose and American compatriots John Huh and Rickie Fowler. Woods, who had a disastrous end to his second round on Friday while closing with three consecutive bogeys, stumbled out of the gate yesterday, finding the fairway bunker with his opening drive but had his putter working early dropping an 11-foot putt to save par.
But to no one’s surprise, he soon discovered his comfort zone on one of his all-time favourite layouts, mixing an eagle and five birdies with a single bogey.
Seven times, including last year, Woods has triumphed at “Arnie’s Place” and one more victory on Sunday would match Sam Snead’s PGA Tour record for most wins in a single event.
It would also see him reclaim top spot in the world rankings from Rory McIlroy.
“I played halfway decent today and hit a lot of good shots,” Woods said. “I made a few putts which was key today and I’m very pleased I picked up towards the middle part of the round.”
The 37-year-old is chasing his 99th professional win and he admitted his significant experience in central Florida gave him an edge going into today.
“Once we figure out what a golf course is like we figure out how to play on them and that’s been the case in my scheduling,” he added. “Over the course of my career I’ve played well on a few courses and this is one of them.”
n Spain’s Beatriz Recari surged into the halfway lead at the LPGA Tour Kia Classic courtesy of a second-round 67 at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, California.
Recari picked up five birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to move to eight under.
American Paula Creamer (68) and Australia’s Karrie Webb (70) were joint second.
Scotland’s Catriona Matthew just made the cut thanks to a second-round 72. She is 11 shots off the lead.