By DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Tiger Woods is in a place he hasn't been in 30 months — atop the leaderboard on the PGA Tour going into the weekend.
With alarming control, Woods putted for birdie on every hole and made short work of the par 5s Friday at Bay Hill for a 7-under 65, giving him a share of the lead with Charlie Wi after two rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
"A lot of positives today," Woods said.
Wi, the 54-hole leader at Pebble Beach this year, rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on his last hole for a 68 to join Woods at 10-under 134.
Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell had an eagle-par-birdie finish for a 63, while Jason Dufner extended his solid play on the Florida swing with a 69. They were one shot behind at 135.
Woods last had the 36-hole lead in any tour event at the Australian Open in November, and he tied for third. On the PGA Tour, go all the way back to the Tour Championship in September 2009 to find the last time he was atop the leaderboard going into the weekend.
It looks even more ominous at Bay Hill, where Woods is a six-time winner.
"I want to win. Yes, absolutely," he said. "We've got a long way to go. It's not like it's over right now. We've got 36 holes to go."
Woods at least is in better shape than he was two weeks ago. His future looked as muddled as ever when Woods was taken off the golf course in a cart at Doral because of soreness and swelling in his left Achilles tendon, the same injury that forced him to miss three months and two majors a year ago.
One week later, he was practicing at Augusta National. Now, he's the player everyone is chasing on the weekend.
"I saw him on television at Doral and didn't look good there," said Ernie Els, who played with Woods at Bay Hill, and played with him when Woods shot 62 on the last day of the Honda Classic. "Today he was on, and today was the same as I saw at the Honda — very on."
Woods only had a couple of nervous moments.
He ran off four straight birdies on the front nine to quickly get into the mix, and then couldn't decide how to play his tee shot on the 10th. It didn't help that earlier in the round, he looked over at adjacent first tee and saw Nick Watney — affectionately known as "Rube" — pipe his tee shot out-of-bounds to the right.
"I got over there and for some reason I'm thinking, 'You know, I probably really shouldn't hit this driver; I'll take something off of it, and just hit a little softy out there.' And bailed on it, because I didn't want to hit it right out-of-bounds," Woods said. "And I chalked that up to just not listening to my instincts of hitting a 3-iron down there or just chipping a 5-wood — or not watching Ruby hit that shot."
Woods was lucky. The snap hook bounced off a net fence protecting the houses, and he had just enough room to play to the middle of the 10th green and walk away with par.
He also was disgusted with his approach to the par-5 16th, turning in anger and swiping at the ground. It wasn't a great shot, but it was dry, catching the left side of the green 50 feet away and setting up a two-putt birdie.
Woods also had a two-putt birdie at the par-5 sixth. He made birdies on the other par 5s with his wedge game. Over two rounds, he has had such improved control of his play that he hit 19 consecutive greens in regulation at one point. That streak ended on the 13th hole Friday, when he two-putted for par from on the fringe.
Some of that is familiarity.
"I've had a few places where I've felt comfortable and I've played well, and this is one of them," Woods said. "For some reason, I just understand how to play it."
And some of that is becoming more confident with his swing, especially how far he is hitting the ball. Woods said he was not hitting his irons as well before going to work with Sean Foley, and a straighter, tighter ball flight has led to more distance — and more adjustments.
He felt as though he hit the ball better on Thursday in a round of 69, although he didn't have nearly as many birdie chances.
"My bad days are not as bad as they used to be," Woods said.
It was the fifth time Woods had had at least a share of the 36-hole lead at Bay Hill, and he has failed to win only once from that position. Woods served up several reminders that the tournament is only halfway over, along with gentle rebukes that it hasn't been that long that he's been in the hunt.