Tiger Woods leads the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. It's deva vu all over again.
With a bogey-free 7-under-par 65 Friday on the Championship Course, Woods claimed a share of the 36-hole lead at Bay Hill Club & Lodge. It's a familiar position for the 14- time major champion, who is seeking his first PGA TOUR title since the 2009 BMW Championship.
With a 10-under 134 aggregate score, Woods stands atop a post-round leaderboard for the 18th time over the 60 competitive rounds he has played here. Overall, Woods has won seven times at Bay Hill, six coming in this tournament. His other victory here was in the 1991 USGA Junior Amateur.
"Fortunately, I've had a few places where I've felt comfortable and I've played well, and this is one of them," said Woods, 35, who won the last of his six titles here in 2009. "Even though the design has changed over the years a few times, the routing is still the same. But for some reason, I just feel comfortable on this golf course. I just understand how to play it."
Joining Woods atop the standings is first-round co-leader Charlie Wi, who birdied three of his final six holes for a 68.
Just one stroke behind the pair is Jason Dufner, who had a 69, and 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, who plowed his way to the low round of the week thus far, a 9-under 63 comprised of seven birdies and an eagle. That was one off the tournament record shared by Andy Bean and Greg Norman.
"Shooting 63 on a golf course like this is always a lot of fun, and this is always an event that I like to put in my schedule," said McDowell, who finished tied for second in his Bay Hill debut in 2005, "It's a golf course that I feel like I can get it around, and like I say, Mr. Palmer is our host this week, it always has that special feel to it."
Defending champion Martin Laird shot 68 to make the cut at 140, leaving him six back. Other former winners playing this weekend are: Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Chad Campbell, Tim Herron, and Rod Pampling. Singh is highest in the standings among them at 69-139.
But Woods is the central figure as round three unfolds. This is the fourth time Woods has led after 36 holes at Bay Hill; three of those he converted into victories.
He played impeccably Friday, hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation, something he hadn't done in more than four years. Swing changes he's been working on the last year seem to be paying off.
"It was a solid round of golf," Woods said with a broad smile. "I felt like I actually hit it better yesterday than I did today. I've made more putts today for sure. I felt great over the putter. My speed was good. I left a couple putts dead short, right in the center of the hole. Actually it really could have been a really low round today. A lot of positives today."
Woods, currently ranked 18th in the world, was asked if he needed a win this week, given his struggles the last two-plus years. "I want to win, yes, absolutely," he said. "But we've got a long way to go. It's not like it's over right now. We've got 36 holes to go."
Wi also said he played a solid round, but he'll need more of the same to keep pace with Tiger. He was eager for the challenge.
"I've known Tiger since junior golf days, since I was 13 and we played in college â€¦ and I'm comfortable with him," Wi, 40, said. "We've been friends a long time. Tiger is a good guy and I look forward to playing with him tomorrow. Hopefully I can get some of his energy towards me."