Sun shines on Woods in Dubai
Dubai - Tiger Woods produced his best round of the year at the Dubai Desert Classic on Friday to jump into contention for a first title in 15 months.
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The 35-year-old American carded a second round six-under par 66 and at the halfway stage he was seven under and poised to mount a challenge at the weekend in the European Tour event.
Playing alongside the two men ahead him in the rankings, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, the world number three looked comfortable and relaxed as he took advantage of perfect morning playing conditions to roll in six birdies, all from within fairly comfortable putting range.
"I've played myself right back in the tournament," Woods said.
His score put him level with first round leader Rory McIlroy who was among the late starters setting out in stiffening winds which whipped the Emirates Golf Club's Majlis course.
The clubhouse lead, meanwhile went to South Africa's Thomas Aiken who carded a second straight 67 to stand at 10-under.
Woods's score bettered the two three-under 69s he returned two weeks ago in the first two rounds at Torrey Pines in California when he opened his year with a disappointing tie for 44th place in the PGA Tour event.
Woods opted to continue his build-up to April's Masters, when he will aim to bag a 15th major title, in Dubai where he has won twice before in 2006 and 2008.
He struggled with his remodeled swing for most of Thursday's opening round before closing it out in style with an eagle three at the last.
And carrying that momentum into Friday, when he started at the 10th, Woods had early birdies at the 12th and 13th and then grabbed another at the 18th to go out in three under 34.
More birdies followed at the 2nd and 4th as he moved ahead of Kaymer and closed in on Westwood who are battling it out between them here for the world number one ranking.
A sixth birdie at the sixth then put him briefly joint top of the leaderboard at seven under and he parred his way in from there to complete a morale-boosting round of golf.
"I hit the ball better today," Woods said. "Felt like I had more control over my shots.
"I cleaned up the round. I didn't make as many mistakes as I did yesterday. I controlled my trajectory a lot better today. Going into the weekend with the wind forecast, that's important."
Westwood had a 70 and was two back from Woods on five under. Kaymer had a 71 and is at four under.
Woods will sit back and watch Friday's afternoon's developments with first round leader Rory McIlroy setting out at seven under after an opening 65. He enjoyed a two stroke lead over the field overnight.
Aiken, seeking his first European Tour win, maintained the fine form he showed last week in Qatar where he finished in a tie for sixth place.
"Been pretty consistent the last two years," he said.
"Feel like I've been putting myself in position to win a golf tournament and just haven't been getting it done on the weekend."
Others to make a move early on Friday were Anders Hansen of Denmark (68) and Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland (67) who joined Woods at seven under.