HOYLAKE: With another magical shot in a career already filled with them, Tiger Woods seized control of the British Open with a 7-under 65 on Friday and cast aside the notion his poor performance in the U.S. Open was anything more than a rare off week for the world's greatest golfer.
The defending champion, who missed the cut at Winged Foot a month ago, holed his second shot from 204 yards at the par five 14th to move to 11 under, three ahead of Chris DiMarco, and with the rest of the field unable to keep up with his pace.
Firing six birdies and his eagle, Woods reached halfway on 12-under, still three ahead of DiMarco who also returned a 65 a record for an Open at Royal Liverpool. Retief Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open champion, moved up to third at eight-under after a 66 that included two eagles.
Woods had already grabbed the lead when he stood over a 4-iron at No. 14. He ripped a low shot that caught the edge of the green and hopped three more times before striking the stick and dropping straight in for eagle.
Woods stood in the middle of the 14th fairway with a dazed look, so far away from the green he couldn't tell where his ball landed.
``It went in?'' Woods asked caddie Steve Williams.
Yes, it did.
Walking toward the green, Woods heard the gallery roar but didn't know where his ball ended up. When Williams told him it was in the cup, the golfer shrugged his shoulders, almost as if he was apologising, then broke into a wide grin and gave his caddie a high-five. Williams jokingly attempted to put the bag on Woods' shoulder as the two made a triumphant walk up the fairway.
The shot pushed Woods' score to 11-under par the first golfer in double figures and provided a three-shot cushion over DiMarco.
``It's a bonus,'' Woods said. ``Trust me, I'm not trying to put the ball in the hole. I'm just trying to put it on the green and get out of there with a 4.''
Woods had another birdie on the par-five 16th and strolled to the clubhouse with a 12-under 132 and a three-stroke lead over resurgent DiMarco. Only one other golfer, two-time U.S. Open Retief Goosen at eight under with two holes to play, was within five strokes of Woods at that point, though many of the top players, including Phil Mickelson, had yet to tee off.
Everyone faces the daunting task of chasing down Woods, who has never been beaten when he's got a 36-hole lead in a major. He's 6-0 when running up front at the halfway point, most recently a year ago at St. Andrews for his second British Open title.
Woods said it's too early to claim victory this year.
``I'm not here with the jug,'' he said. ``We've got 36 more holes to go.
``I made a few bombs,'' said Woods, who also made a long birdie putt at No. 8.
``Right now, I'm playing with what the golf course allows me to do. You just never know. Everyone's got an opportunity. Chris and I both shot low numbers, so it can be had. I'm just glad I got mine in early so I can get some work in this afternoon.''
That can't be a comforting thought for the rest of the field: a rested, well-practiced Woods returning on the weekend with a lead.
DiMarco finished with a 7-under 65, breaking Graeme McDowell's 1-day-old record for the best Open score at Royal Liverpool. The American birdied the first two holes and moved to the top of the leaderboard with an even longer run of birdies four in a row starting at No. 8. AP