Tiger has perfect chance to end barren spell

Updated: Mar 24, 2012, 09:35 AM IST

Orlando (Florida): Tiger Woods has shown signs of his old form in recent weeks but now has the perfect chance to end a once-unthinkable PGA Tour victory drought of more than two years.

Woods fired a seven-under-par 65 on Friday and will enter Saturday`s third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a share of the lead on a course where he has won six times in his career and enjoys an undoubted comfort level.

While there are plenty of quality players at the top end of the leaderboard, none of the world`s top six ranked players are at Bay Hill, easing the competition somewhat.

It is therefore hard to think of a more ideal situation for Woods to claim his first PGA Tour win since the BMW Championship in September 2009.

The most recent challenge Woods made to win a tournament came at last month`s Honda Classic when a final round 62 put pressure on Rory McIlroy but was not enough to overtake the Northern Irishman.

But this time, Woods sits atop the leaderboard, a place that was once his habitual home but where he has been a rare visitor since the disintegration of his personal life and string of injuries halted his run of success.

"It`s not like it has been that long, you know. I had the lead at Abu Dhabi this year. So it really has not been as long as people might think it has been," Woods said with a grin.

"I`m comfortable up there and I feel like I am playing well. We`ve still got a long way to go, there are 36 holes to go, I need to carry on doing what I`m doing out there, just kind of plodding my way along."

Woods certainly will not encounter any surprises at Bay Hill, which was once his neighborhood course and has been a very happy hunting ground for him over the years.

"I`ve had a few places where I`ve felt comfortable and I`ve played well, and this is one of them. Even though, the design has changed over the years a few times, the routing is still the same," said Woods.

"But for some reason, I just feel comfortable on this golf course. For some reason, I just understand how to play it."

Woods accurately described his bogey-free second round as "solid" but the key to his charge up the leaderboard has been his ability to avoid mistakes or get out of trouble on the couple of occasions he erred.

"I feel that even though my stuff wasn`t as good as it was yesterday, it wasn`t that bad either," said Woods. "And that is the neat thing about what I am working on with (coach) Sean (Foley) - is that my bad days are not as bad as they used to be - just a little bit tighter."

Woods credits a tighter ball flight and increasing distance for his progress in recent weeks and his putting troubles, which dogged him earlier in the year, seem to have eased.

With the Masters just over a week away, many will be keen to see whether Woods has his "stuff" at a high enough level for the first major of the year.

His playing partner on Friday, South African Ernie Els, believes Woods deserves to be considered among the favourites at Augusta National.

"Definitely, with his experience, maybe he is not as long as he was back in the day but he`s still plenty long enough and he`s got the most trajectory for the second shots. Definitely would be a favourite."

Bureau Report