Sydney: Tiger Woods sparkled in Sydney`s morning sunshine to take a one-shot clubhouse lead in the second round of the Australian Open on Friday.
The former world number one, now languishing at 58th in the rankings after two years of personal and injury turmoil, mixed seven birdies with two bogeys for a 67 to stand at nine-under after two rounds.
The 35-year-old is in good position to hold the lead at the end of a round for the first time this year, with the wind starting to stiffen and greens expected to firm up for the later starters.
"I played well today and could have been a bit lower on my first nine holes," the 14-times major winner told reporters.
"I basically felt I didn`t miss a shot today, although it was five-under today, I felt it could have been eight or nine deep."
Back in the country where he won his last title at the 2009 Australian Masters, Woods was delighted to top the leaderboard for the first time since midway through the final day of this year`s U.S. Masters.
"It feels good, but it feels good to actually be there playing properly, it`s not like I`m slashing it all over the place, I`m hitting the ball well," he said.
Having hit his first error-free round in nine months for a 68 in Thursday`s opening round, Woods started from the 10th hole in benign conditions and charged up the leaderboard with five birdies on the back nine.
A bogey at the third hole, his 12th, was a setback but he responded immediately to take the shot back at the next hole.
Another bogey four holes from home was cancelled out after a beautiful approach shot at his penultimate hole and he was an inch away from an eighth birdie with a 12-foot putt at the last.
That left him a shot ahead of experienced Australian Peter O`Malley before the afternoon starters, including overnight leader on seven-under Jarrod Lyle, got underway.
The key to another good round, Woods said, was that he was finally fit enough to be able to practise as much as he wanted and the results of those efforts were beginning to show.
"I`ve changed coaches, changed golf swings and I`ve just come off some injuries," he said.
"I`ve been hitting it like this at home but it just hasn`t come out in the tournament setting. That`s progression. I`ve been through swing changes before and that`s what happens. The confidence starts building."
Woods last led at the end of a round last December going into the final day at his own Chevron tournament, where he lost out to Graeme McDowell.
With world number seven Jason Day was in the same group as Woods, the grouping again attracted the biggest gallery of the day at the Lakes Golf Club.
Rising Australian talent Day shot a 68 to stand two shots behind the American in the clubhouse.
"It feels great to have everyone fired up and Jason`s playing well too, an Aussie, so it was just a fun atmosphere to be part of," Woods said.
However, with two more rounds still to play at the $1.5 million event Woods was not getting carried away. "My whole goal is to win golf tournaments," he said. "That, to me, is what it`s all about."
"I got two more days to go, it`s going to be a tough couple of days with the wind supposed to stay blowing out there. It`ll be a fun test."
"Bunch of guys went low yesterday and are just starting their rounds just now. I may not have a lead tomorrow, so we`ll see what happens."
We're building him (RvP) up now because of the World Cup. It’s a pity but we have to or he’ll never be fit.
Louis van Gaal