Tiger Woods storms up Dubai leaderboard
It was just like the good old days today as Tiger Woods at last resembled the player who has won 14 majors.
A second round 66 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic brought the former world number one right into contention for a first win since his sex scandal.
Partnering Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, the two men who have overtaken him in the world rankings, Woods even charged into a share of the lead at one point - and this after he had been down in 85th spot 12 holes into his opening round.
Given a huge boost in confidence by a closing eagle yesterday, the American resumed six adrift of overnight leader Rory McIlroy, but took only 15 holes to wipe out that deficit as McIlroy waited to tee off again.
Woods' run started on the 467-yard 12th, the hole he double-bogeyed on his previous visit, and further birdies came on the 13th and 18th - both par fives - to take him to the turn in 34.
After saving par from a bunker at the first he pitched to seven feet from the rough on the next, rolled in a 25-footer at the short fourth and then produced his shot of the day.
The par-four sixth hole measures 485 yards, but the 2006 and 2008 champion cut the corner with a 314-yard drive and then hit a brilliant approach to two feet.
That was the moment he was briefly joint leader, but by finishing with three pars Woods reached halfway on 137, seven under, and found himself two behind South African Thomas Aiken.
McIlroy, though, was only just setting off and had the chance to open some daylight.
It is almost 15 months since Woods last tasted victory, just before his life was turned upside down by revelations of serial adultery.
Westwood, who took over as number one last October, is in the hunt too, but a closing bogey left him on five under following a 70.
Kaymer, meanwhile, added a 71 to his opening 69 to be one further back.
Aiken, yet to win on the European Tour, still had three holes to play, but he too birdied the difficult sixth.
Woods said: "I played myself right back into the tournament. I felt I hit the ball a lot better and the greens were absolutely perfect.
"It was steady. I didn't make as many mistakes as yesterday and I felt it was important to post a number."
Westwood, who missed the cut last week, is still searching for his sparkling best.
"I'm a bit disappointed with the way I've hit it the first two days," he commented. "You have chances out there - you've just got to be on your game."
Aiken added a further birdie on the eighth and with a 67 had opened up a three-stroke lead at 10 under.
McIlroy's hopes of regaining top spot suffered a setback when he bogeyed the second to go back to six under, but fellow Northern Irishman Michael Hoey birdied five of the last six holes to join Woods and Dane Anders Hansen in second place.
Former British amateur champion Hoey, who won his first European Tour event in Portugal two years ago, had turned in a one over 36, but with a birdie at the short 11th he roared home in a six under 31.
McIlroy was back moving in the right direction with a two at the 186-yard seventh and when Sergio Garcia matched that the pair were part of a seven-way tie for second on seven under.
On the same mark were Woods, Hansen, Hoey - all finished - plus Australian Brett Rumford and England's Steve Webster.
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