TIger Woods put on another masterful putting display Friday, helping him shoot a 65 and earn a two-shot lead going into the weekend in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.
Woods, who has won three times at Doral and has captured this World Golf Championship event six times, gave himself numerous chances with a solid ballstriking round in which he barely missed a green.
His 7-under 65 gave him a two-shot lead over 2010 U.S. Open champion Graem McDowell and a three-shot lead over Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker, his buddy who gave him putting tips that Woods attributes to his solid play with the flat stick so far.
Woods has won 26 -of-31 times when he has the outright 36-hole lead in his PGA Tour career.
On Wednesday, Stricker gave Woods some advice during a 45-minute session on the practice green, one that has led to two days of exceptional work.
“I’ve always liked the way he putts it,” Stricker said. “We’ve talked a lot about it over the years. We have the same ideas, although we do different things to get it there. We have the same principles. He’s open to hearing what I have to say sometimes.”
This time, it worked, as Woods made nine birdies Thursday and added eight more Friday. He has had 22 one-putt greens in the tournament, and on Friday he hit 15-of-18 greens in regulation.
For a time, it appeared Mickelson would play his way into a third-round pairing with Woods, reprising their epic 2005 final-round duel here in which Woods prevailed by a stroke to regain the No. 1 world ranking.
But McDowell had other ideas, birdieing his last two holes for a 67.
“I saw Phil sneaking up the leaderboard there behind me, and I said to (caddie) Kenny (Comboy), ‘Let’s spoil this party tomorrow,’ ” McDowell said. “I’m sure they would have liked Tiger and Phil in the last group tomorrow, would have been great for the tournament, but I certainly will enjoy the position of being in the last group and the mix. That’s right where I want to be.
“Great to see the best players in the game playing as well as they are. Always exciting to have Tiger and Phil playing well. It brings the crowds and puts people behind their TV screens, and that’s what’s important.”
Mickelson has shot 67-67 after an early-week visit to Augusta National to scout the Masters venue.
“I saw Tiger was playing well and I wanted to make a couple birdies to get in the group with him,” Mickelson said. “It seems since 2007, when we played at Deutsche Bank in Boston, I’ve been playing some of my best golf when we get paired together.
“I hope that tomorrow that I play a good round and so does he, and we get a chance to get paired together in Sunday’s final round, because he seems to somehow bring out my best golf.”