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January 25 2013

6:32 PM

No surprise: Woods in the lead

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Did you really expect anything else?

Yes, that's Tiger Woods at the top of the leaderboard after two rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open. The man who has won the tournament six times matched his second-lowest score ever on the North Course with a 65 and owns a two-stroke advantage at 11 under.

Billy Horschel is Woods' closet competitor after a round of 69 on the South Course. Casey Wittenberg, Brad Fritsch, Erik Compton, Steve Marino, Jimmy Walker and Josh Teater are another stroke further behind at 8 under.

And as the 87 players who made the cut prepare for their final two rounds on the South Course, which was the longest on the PGA TOUR last year, there is another stat worth considering. Woods has a 74-0 edge in wins over the seven players nearest his lead. 

Woods has now played 49 rounds on these two scenic layouts that meander along the Pacific Ocean and broken par in 42 of them. Somewhat surpisingly, though, this is just Woods' second 36-hole lead at Torrey Pines -- and his first since 2000 when he led by four and ended up beating Ryuji Imada by twice that much.

The key over the first two rounds has been the way Woods mastered the par 5s. He played them in 5 under on Friday and 4 under during the first round. He's made five birdies and two eagles to lead the field in scoring on those holes.

"That's basically where the round could be had," Woods explained. "On the North Course, drive the ball well here and you're going to probably have 4-iron shots into the par 5s.  Just happened to have the wind turn into us on nine, so I ended up hitting 5-wood. 

"But, you sprinkle that in with probably four or five wedge shots in there, a round of 6- or 7-under par is definitely conceivable."

Woods, whose scoring average on the North prior to Friday was an eye-popping 67.75, will be seeking to make the Farmers Insurance Open the third event on TOUR that he's won seven times. The others are the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and Arnold Palmer Invitational. 

Woods has been particularly steady off the tee -- hitting 12 of 14 fairways on Friday, an improvement of five over the first round. He's hit 13 of 18 greens in regulation each day and his putter has been solid, using 27 in the second round and 28 in the first.

"That's something that I needed to work on, and as you saw toward the end of last season, it started coming around," Woods said when asked about his short game. "Basically, I just continue doing what I've been doing with it, and I haven't had to hit as many golf balls, so I've been able to dedicate more time to (it) and consequently, it's better."

Woods got hot as he made the turn on Friday, making birdie at the 17th hole, eagle at No. 18 and adding two more birdies on Nos. 1 and 2. Woods said he "didn't really miss a shot through that stretch."

Woods last appearance at Torrey Pines was his least successful, resulting in a tie for 44th, his only finish outside the top 10, after rounds of 74-75 on the weekend. He was in the beginning stages of a swing change with Sean Foley that year, though, and Woods is much more sure of their work these days after last year's three-win season.

"It's not like something that you can do overnight and make changes and all of a sudden it's great," Woods said. "From where I came from to where I'm at now, it's a big change."

Woods said Friday's rain didn't bother him that much. He doesn't like rain gear and eshewed an unbrella -- "Once you're wet, you're wet," he said with a smile. "Deal with it."

But the course definitely felt the affects.

"It certainly softened it up," Woods said. "The greens became pretty soft, and they became pretty bumpy. ... I tried to hit every putt where it was just falling in and not having any putts coming back because they're a little testy from about two feet."

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