Woods eclipses McDowell to surge ahead

 

For the first time in two and a half years, Tiger Woods is on top of an American leaderboard going into the weekend. In 2009 it would have seemed so simple. Now it is simply so enthralling.

A seven-under 65 in yesterday's second round sent the former world No 1 into a tie with Charlie Wi, one shot clear of Graeme McDowell and Jason Duffer. Woods has prevailed over the Bay Hill course six times. The bookmakers rate him as an even-money favourite to make it a seventh – and send the hype machine into overdrive for the Masters, which tees off in 12 days' time.

It was difficult to equate the Woods who Florida has watched this week advance to 10-under with the Woods who, in the same state two weeks ago, limped out of the WGC Cadillac Championship with six holes remaining. Never mind a fitness test, so far this has seemed but a mere warm-up around a track he knows so well.

In the first round Woods looked comfortable enough, but yesterday he appeared supremely nestled in his comfort zone. He claimed to have only putted well and not to have felt at ease with rest of the game. If that is true, his rivals need to worry. Woods missed but one green in regulation and that was marginal.

"The difference was I putted well today," he said. "I didn't feel I hit the ball that well – but I played smart." On the Achilles trouble which forced him to pull-out in Miami, he said: "I'm having treatment and there's no swelling. Everything's good."

So the fairway appears clear for him to march to his first official victory since before he crashed into that fire hydrant 28 months ago and set forth a torrent of ridicule concerning his private life. He now appears ready to end the drought. Can anyone stop him? McDowell will fancy it.

It was only a year ago last December when the 2010 US Open champions overhauled Woods head-to-head at Tiger's own tournament in California. And the Ulsterman's nine-under 63 yesterday screamed of a man entering form at exactly the right time.

One of the more curious stats of the last month is that for his last three tournaments, the Ulsterman is an accumulative six-over for his first-round – and 20-under for his second round. McDowell opened here with a 72 and then stormed back to continue the trend of the Honda Classic three weeks ago (started with a 73, followed with a 64) and the Cadillac three weeks (started with a 75, followed by a 67). McDowell will put it together for all four rounds one of these days.

Justin Rose will also sense an opportunity. If the Englishman can follow up his triumph at Doral a fortnight ago, he will ensure that the United Kingdom tees off at Augusta boasting the top four in the world. Yesterday's 69 left Rose at six-under.

In the old days, Rose would not have been given much hope of breaching a four-stroke deficit at Bay Hill with Woods. Now? Golf holds its breath.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week