Tiger Woods tops leaderboard at Australian Open

Tiger Woods says his confidence is returning as he vaulted to the halfway lead in the Australian Open at The Lakes on Friday in pursuit of his first tournament victory in two years.

Updated: November 11, 2011 14:32 IST
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Sydney: Tiger Woods says his confidence is returning as he vaulted to the halfway lead in the Australian Open at The Lakes on Friday in pursuit of his first tournament victory in two years.

It is the first time the former world number one has led after a round since the third round of the Chevron World Challenge last December.

The 14-time major winner transferred his practice form to tournament play as he fired seven birdies in a five-under 67 for a one-shot lead over veteran Australian Peter O'Malley after 36 holes.

Woods, who has not won since the 2009 Australian Masters to send his world ranking tumbling to 58, backed up Thursday's unblemished opening round of four-under 68 in a sign of a long overdue return to form.

"I'm basically playing the way I have been playing at home, it's finally come to the golf course in a tournament setting," Woods said.

"I've been hitting like this at home, but it just hasn't come out at a tournament.

"It's progression. I've been through some changes before and that's what happened. It takes a little bit of time, but once it starts coming the confidence starts building."

Woods showed an inkling of the form that once dominated world golf for more than a decade.

"I derive a lot of my confidence from practice. I am getting ample practice time," he said.

"That is something that I have not done in the last couple of years as I've been battling injuries and have not been able to get the amount of reps (repetitions) I am used to.

"That has all changed. I have been healthy enough to get those reps in and playing a ton of golf at home and I've been able to get back into that old routine again and it has worked."

Woods ripped through five birdies in his outward nine holes to seize the outright lead and split two more birdies and two bogeys coming home to finish on nine-under 135.

"I played well today, I could have been lower on what would have been my first nine holes and basically I felt I didn't miss a shot and even though I shot five under today I felt it could have been eight or nine," he said.

O'Malley, 46, finished birdie-birdie in his six-under 66 to trail Woods with top-ranked Australian Jason Day another stroke away on seven-under 137.

"I only missed two fairways, I hit 18 greens and hit two par-fives in two, I probably had 32 putts for six-under so that's pretty good golf," said O'Malley, who closes his eyes when he short putts to "take away the visual anxiety".

O'Malley, who will partner Woods in Saturday's third round, said the last time he played with the former number one he beat him 2 and 1 in the World Match Play in 2002 at Carlsbad, California.

Day, who had five birdies and a bogey playing in the same group as Woods, said he had fun playing with his hero.

"Tiger is playing great. He is hitting the ball very well and he has a lot of momentum going into the next two days," Day said.

"It was a lot of fun to play with my hero. I have been dreaming about playing with Tiger for a long, long time. I finally got the chance and I am glad I played well too."

American Bubba Watson was in fourth spot on six-under 138 after a 70, while compatriot Nick Watney (66-73) and Australians Matt Jones (69-70), overnight leader Jarrod Lyle (65-74) and Greg Chalmers (67-72) were tied for fourth on five-under.

Among the high-profile golfers to miss the two-over 146 halfway cut were US President's Cup team member Matt Kuchar (74-73) and Australians Robert Allenby (75-73) and Stuart Appleby (76-79).

Hunter Mahan withdrew from the tournament on Friday, troubled by shoulder and neck soreness, but said he would be OK to play the US team against the Internationals in next week's Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

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