Rested Woods is back in control

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The Independent Online

Coming off a two-week rest, Woods resumed his dominance on the PGA Tour with an 8-under 64 on Friday that gave him a one-stroke lead over Canada's Mike Weir going into Saturday's third round of the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando, Florida.

Woods might not win, but he has given himself a chance once again. Dating to the Bay Hill last year, he has failed to finish out of the top 10 just four times in 22 tournaments around the world. And by the way, he has won 11 of them.

If there's a trend, it's the rest.

He took three weeks off after the British Open and won the PGA Championship. He took three weeks off after the Ryder Cup, then returned and won Disney, the Tour Championship and the American Express in Valderrama.

When he was done jaunting around the world from Taiwan to Malaysia to Hawaii, he settled in for a long winter's nap and won the first official tournament of the year, the Mercedes Championship.

A three-week break followed, and he won Pebble Beach.

"I think you can come back sharp because of the fact that you get the rest mentally," Woods said. "I've always done better that way because I can go ahead and hit a lot of golf balls and practice and get ready with my game."

It looks ready enough.

Woods got his timing back, found the extra length off the tee he has been missing and has eaten up the par 5s at Bay Hill, making two eagles and five birdies in those eighth holes in the first two rounds.

And that's what separates him from Weir.

The left-handed Canadian found his birdies everywhere else, five on the first five holes on Friday on his way to a 64 that left him at 134, one behind Woods.

Another stroke back was Steve Flesch, the first left-hander to win PGA Tour rookie of the year, who shot a 65.

See another trend developing? Sure enough, the most famous lefty on tour, Phil Mickelson, had a 67 and was lurking just four off the lead.

Three lefties, chasing the guy who always seems to get it right.

Woods and Weir led the assault on a Bay Hill course softened overnight by rain and made even easier by constant cloud cover and the absence of wind. Seventy-five of the 120 players broke par. Helping Woods was the fact there wasn't much roll on the damp fairways.

"For anybody that hits the ball long, you've got to love coming here," said Woods, who was at 11-under 133.

Woods kept with yet another trend on Friday by giving himself three eagle chances, the same number he had Thursday, only this time he bagged two of them.

He made a 7 1/2-meter (25-foot) putt for eagle on the 484-meter (530-yard) fourth hole, and hit a 3-wood 260 meters (285 yards) to about 7 1/2 meters (25 feet) for eagle on No. 12. He gave himself another eagle chance with a 7-iron into 9 meters (30 feet) on No. 16, but the putt grazed the lip and he had to settle for - horrors! - a birdie.

And yet, the best putt of the day was for a bogey.

With Weir and Flesch having posted their scores in the morning, Woods knew the course was ripe for birdies. He was cruising along until hitting his drive into a fairway bunker and dumping his next shot into the water.

He took a drop, hit his fourth shot 3.6 meters (12 feet) beneath the hole and saved his bogey.

"That was a great bogey," he said. "I told my caddie, 'It feels like we just made birdie.' I didn't lose my momentum."

Weir faced no such troubles. He was in a zone from the minute he sank a 12-meter (40-foot) birdie putt on the second hole. As the gallery swelled with Canadians on vacation in Florida, Weir took dead aim at the flag. None of his other six birdies were longer than 4 1/2 meters (15 feet).

"The holes seem big and you're just dialed in," Weir said. "You seem to hit the ball in the fairway, have the right yardage, never in between clubs. That's what happened today."

Weir is 0-2 in Sunday showdowns against Woods. He finished second behind Woods in the Western Open, and was tied with him going into the final round of the PGA Championship, where Woods closed with a 71 and Weir skied to an 80.

"Obviously, Mike played very well today," Woods said. "He was 8-under through 11 (holes). That usually works. He might be one or two back in Palm Springs, but here, it's still pretty good."

Second-round scores from the USPGA Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando (US unless stated):

133 T Woods 69 64 134 M Weir (Can) 70 64 135 S Flesch 70 65 136 J Huston 72 64 137 W Grady (Aus) 72 65, S Kendall 70 67, P Mickelson 70 67 138 W Austin 71 67, S Cink 71 67, B Geiberger 69 69, P Goydos 69 69, J Kaye 69 69, N Lancaster 70 68, R Mediate 70 68, D Toms 69 69 139 S Ames (Tri) 73 66, D Love 72 67, T Pernice 71 68, J Van de Velde (Fra) 72 67 140 D Clarke (Gbr) 72 68, E Els (Rsa) 72 68, L Westwood (Gbr) 72 68 141 V Singh (Fij) 68 73 142 R Allenby (Aus) 71 71, S Appleby (Aus) 70 72, S Maruyama (Jpn) 72 70 143 C Montgomerie (Gbr) 72 71, S Garcia (Spa) 75 68 144 B Langer (Ger) 75 69, J Ozaki (Jpn) 70 74, C Parry (Aus) 71 73, E Fryatt (Gbr) 72 72 Missed cut 145 F Allem (Rsa) 73 72, S Lyle (Gbr) 71 74, F Nobilo (Nzl) 76 69 146 N Faldo (Gbr) 74 72, P Harrington (Irl) 74 72, C Franco (Par) 76 70 148 T Bjorn (Den) 80 68, G Waite (Nzl) 74 74, R Goosen (Rsa) 73 75 149 A Baddeley (Aus) 75 74 152 B Hughes (Aus) 79 73