Former world No. 1 Tiger Woods fired a seven-under-par 65 on Friday to surge through the field and take a two-stroke lead at the second round of the US$6.1 million PGA Farmers Insurance Open.
Playing on the Torrey Pines layout, where he has won this event six times and where he captured the most recent of his 14 major titles at the US Open in 2008, Woods had an eagle, six birdies and just one bogey on the North Course.
The 37-year-old, who has struggled with injuries and whose form slumped after an infamous sex scandal in 2009, opened with a four-under 68 on Thursday on the South Course and started the second round three shots off the pace.
He teed off on Friday on the back nine and began with four pars in a row before a birdie at the par-five 14th hole.
He scored a birdie at the par-three 17th, an eagle at the par-five 18th and then added birdies on the par-five first and par-four second holes, lifting himself into sole possession of the lead.
Woods, now back at number two in the world rankings, birdied the par-4 seventh, took his lone bogey of the round at the par-four eighth and finished his round with a birdie at the par-five ninth to stand on 11-under-par 133.
Billy Horschel carded a three-under 69 on the South Course to take second place on his own on 135.
Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton was among half a dozen players on 136.
Compton had six birdies and an eagle in a seven-under 65 on the North Course. He was joined on eight-under by Casey Wittenberg (67), Canadian Brad Fritsch (67), Steve Marino (68), Jimmy Walker (69) and Josh Teater (70).
The 87 players who made the cut will play both weekend rounds on the South Course, where Woods gained his memorable US Open triumph five years ago after a playoff with Rocco Mediate despite a serious knee injury.
Woods is coming off a season debut at Abu Dhabi in which he missed the cut after taking a penalty for an improper drop.
The key for him at Torrey Pines, where rain fell for much of Friday, has been the par-fives, which he played in five-under-par on Friday and four-under on Thursday. Altogether, he has made five birdies and two eagles to lead the field in scoring on those holes.
“That’s basically where the round could be had,” Woods said. “On the North Course, drive the ball well here and you’re going to probably have four-iron shots into the par-fives.”
Woods said his short game continues to improve, now that he has bedded-in the swing changes that have taken a lot of practice.
“That’s something that I needed to work on and as you saw toward the end of last season, it started coming around,” Woods said of play in and around the greens. “I haven’t had to hit as many golf balls, so I’ve been able to dedicate more time to [it] and consequently, it’s better.”