Impressive Woods leads in Australian Open

 

Clubhouse leader Tiger Woods fired an ominous warning to the chasing pack at the Australian Open, saying he has played far better than his 36-hole score suggests.

The former world number one, who has not won a tournament since the 2009 Australian Masters, produced a sizzling round of five-under-par 67 today to lead a world-class field at The Lakes.

The 35-year-old, who started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jarrod Lyle, made the most of the benign conditions in the morning, sinking five birdies on his first nine holes to surge to the outright lead.

Woods then had two bogeys and two more birdies on the way home to finish the round at nine under for the tournament to be one shot clear of Lakes member Peter O'Malley.

Despite being delighted to be back atop a leaderboard again, Woods felt his advantage could have been a lot more comfortable.

"Basically I felt that I never really missed a shot. Even though I shot five under today it felt like it could easily have been eight or nine deep," the American said.

"I could have been a little lower on my first nine holes. I parred a couple of the par fives.

"It feels good that I am there playing properly. It's not like I am slashing it all over the place.

"I am hitting the ball well. I have just hit so many lips these first two days.

"It could have been pretty low these first two days."

While stopping short of declaring he was fully back to his best, Woods said he was finally starting to feel comfortable with his swing, which he has been working on with coach Sean Foley over the last 15 months.

Woods has managed just nine events in 2011 as he battled a mixture of knee and Achilles injuries.

But after finally getting on top of his fitness concerns, Woods said the opportunity to devote more time on the practice range was the key to his improvement.

Asked the difference in his swing now to earlier in the year, he said: "Jeez, there is so much difference.

"If you look on the video, it is way different. Starting from the grip and the posture, to the takeaway, the clubface, arm angles. It is so different.

"I was closer to what I have (found this week) at Augusta but it still wasn't there. I still did not quite grasp the concept of what he (Foley) was trying to get (me to do)."

Many experts have written off the chances of Woods ever rediscovering his best form and winning another major since his rapid drop down the rankings over the last few months.

When asked if that type of talk was acting as motivation, Woods declared: "My whole goal is to win golf tournaments.

"That's it. If it happens, it happens, but that is not my goal.

"My goal is to win golf tournaments and play to the satisfaction of myself and my family. That, to me, is what it is all about."

O'Malley fired six birdies and was the only player not to make a bogey on his way to a 66 - the lowest round of the day - but the shot of the day belonged to Victorian Stephen Allan (74), who made a hole in one at the par-three 15th.

Jason Day, who partnered Woods in the opening two rounds, was alone in third on seven under after carding a solid 68 that featured five birdies and a solitary bogey.

Big-hitting American Bubba Watson was in fourth spot after posting a respectable two-under 70 in the blustery afternoon conditions to finish six under overall - one clear of Nick Watney (73), Matt Jones (70), Greg Chalmers (72), Rohan Blizard (70) and Lyle (74).

Lyle joined Woods in a share of first place with two early birdies but three late bogeys denied him the chance to play in the final pairing tomorrow.

Australian Adam Scott - accompanied by Woods' former caddie Steve Williams - was within striking distance at four under after signing for a 71 that included an eagle and a double bogey to trail Woods by five shots.

PA

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