THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Tiger Woods knows he’s playing better than he has in the last two years, and he has the leaderboard to prove it.
Woods hit a half-dozen extraordinary shots Friday in the Chevron World Challenge on his way to 5-under-par 67, giving him a three-shot lead over Matt Kuchar and K.J. Choi going into the weekend at Sherwood Country Club.
It was the second consecutive stroke-play tournament that Woods had the 36-hole lead. Three weeks ago at the Australian Open, he was one shot ahead until 75 in the third round. Woods wound up in third place at The Lakes, his best finish of the year.
With each round, it looks as though his best might not be too far behind.
“To put it simply, today he played like an artist,” Choi said about Woods. “It’s pretty clear that he’s really recovered and is back in his old form again, and he missed a few putts, but it was really good to see him play well.”
Woods had two eagles. Not even a double bogey on the par-3 15th hole could keep him from a comfortable lead after two rounds.
“I want the lead after four days,” said Woods, winless in his last 26 official starts dating to the Australian Masters in November 2009. “Two days is nice, but four days is even better. Two stroke-play events in a row I’ve played really well.”
Woods was at 8-under 136 and will play in the final group today with Kuchar, who still is trying to figure out how to finish off a good day at Sherwood.
At least this time, Kuchar only came up short and into the water on the 18th for a bogey. In the opening round, he was two shots out of the lead until a triple bogey on the 16th and a bogey on the 17th sent him to a 72. Kuchar played well again as the wind arrived in the middle of the round, and shot 67 to match Woods and Zach Johnson for the best score of the day.
“I always thought as a player, if you had a chance ... and you want to test yourself against the very best, it seemed like, man, if you could go toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods and have a chance to beat him, that’s a real feather in your cap,” Kuchar said.
“And you want his best. You don’t want to see him struggling and missing cuts. That’s no fun to say, ‘I beat Tiger Woods. He missed the cut and I had a 15th-place finish.’ You want him at his best going toe-to-toe coming down to the wire.”