Woods Shoots 62 to Take Target Lead

Saturday, December 15th 2007, 8:25 am
By: News On 6

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) _ Tiger Woods is a gracious tournament host, at least until the tournament gets started. Woods continued to show midseason form at the end of the year with a 10-under 62 on Friday, setting the course record at Sherwood Country Club and building a four-shot lead over Jim Furyk in the Target World Challenge.

Playing for the first time in 10 weeks, Woods looked sharp as ever. He stretched his lead with a couple of long putts, one of them for eagle on the par-5 11th, and finished his record round with an 9-iron into 6 feet on the final hole that brought the fans to their feet.

``He's not a very friendly host to shoot 10 under,'' said Henrik Stenson, who played with Woods and was 10 shots worse.

Woods was at 13-under 131 as he tries to win his tournament for the fourth time. The previous record of 63 was held by three players, most recently Michael Campbell in 2005.

Furyk, coming off a seven-week break, birdied the last two holes for a 67 and will be paired with his Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup partner in the third round Saturday.

Masters champion Zach Johnson birdied the last three holes for a 67 and was another shot behind.

Never mind that the Target World Challenge is a money-grab for the 16-man field, with a $5.75 million purse that is larger than some PGA Tour events. Woods treated this as if he might even get some FedEx Cup points.

``I still expect a lot from myself on each and every shot,'' he said. ``As far as added pressure, it doesn't change. Whether it's this event or all the way up to a major championship, it's still the game. I want to get a `W.' That's why I enter the tournament.''

Scores were generally low on a calm, mild afternoon in the foothills just east of the Pacific Ocean. What made Furyk take notice of Woods' round was that it was five shots better than anyone else.

``Hell of a host,'' Furyk said, grinning.

Woods is coming off the longest unforced break of his career, having not hit a competitive shot since Sept. 30 at the Presidents Cup. Playing this well so soon is nothing new, considering Woods has won his season-opening event four times in his career.

This speaks more toward how comfortable and confident he is with his swing.

``The best way to describe it is a lot of the swing changes, the major swing changes that I had with Hank (Haney), we've already made them,'' Woods said. ``Now you just have tweaks here and there. But understanding what the fix is, that's the biggest thing.''

One of the looser shots came on the par-3 eighth, a 5-iron that floated well right of the pin and wound up in deep rough. He scrambled for par by making an 8-foot putt, then bounced right back with a 3-iron to the fairway and a 9-iron that covered the flag until it settled about 5 feet from the cup for birdie.

Woods only had a one-shot lead at that point, but not for long.

He reached the 11th in two with a 5-iron and holed a 25-foot eagle putt, then made a 30-foot birdie on the 12th that might still be rolling if the hole had not been in the way. Woods straightened and smiled, realizing the good golf still requires some good breaks.

``When things kind of go your way, they go your way,'' he said with a shrug.

They kept going to the very end, from a tricky 18-foot putt up the hill at No. 17 that dropped for birdie, to his approach to the final hole for a final birdie and his 62.

Furyk is far from out of it, the lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan did not turn into Anthony Smith and guarantee victory over the world's No. 1 player. Furyk chuckled at the thought.

``We all know what happens when you (tick) Tiger off,'' he said.

Even so, he knows a good round when he sees one, even if he could only see it from 300 yards behind him.

``A good round usually is when you separate yourself from the field,'' Furyk said. ``Today he shot five shots lower than anyone else in the field. That's a good round. I would consider that a great round.''

Most players would say it's tough to follow up a record round with another one. Woods has shot 62 or lower five times on the PGA Tour, and the best he ever did the next round was a 65 in the 1999 Buick Invitational, which he won.

``You want to feel the same, but you never really do,'' he said. ``I've learned over time ... to play shot-for-shot.''

British Open champion Padraig Harrington tried to keep pace until he ran out of birdies on the back nine and settled for a 67, leaving him seven shots behind and counting the days before he can start his long winter's nap.

Harrington won this tournament five years ago by holding off a late charge by Woods, but he doesn't like the way he is playing, and he's not the least bit comforted by who's ahead of him on the leaderboard.

``If the guy who's leading keeps playing the way he is playing, he can't be caught,'' Harrington said.