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Woods heads into weekend with share of lead at East Lake

ATLANTA — For thousands of fans crammed into every corner of East Lake, it looked as though Tiger Woods was closer than ever to capping off this remarkable comeback season by winning the final PGA Tour event.

Four straight one-putts on the back nine Friday in the Tour Championship — three for birdie, one for par — offset a double bogey and gave Woods a 2-under 68 and a share of the 36-hole lead for the first time in three years. Not since Doral in 2013 has he been atop the leaderboard after each of the first two rounds.

Woods sees it differently.

He’s the one coping with Bermuda rough deep enough to hide all but the top of a golf ball, with greens that are slick and firm and with a golf course that is the most demanding test players have seen this side of a major.

“We have a long way to go,” Woods said. “And this is not an easy golf course.”

For so much of the second round, even as he struggled to keep the ball in play, Woods was making it look that way.

He appeared to be building separation against the 30-man field with that four-hole stretch on the back nine that he capped off with a 25-foot birdie putt on the peninsula green at the par-3 15th. But then a tee shot into the rough led to a plugged lie in a bunker and a shot he had to play away from the 16th green, leading to double bogey. A two-putt birdie on the final hole gave him a share of the lead with Justin Rose.

They were at 7-under 133.

Rose, in his debut at No. 1 in the world, played in front of Woods and could hear all about it with an enormous gallery. He birdied three of his last six holes to offset a bogey for a 67.

“Playing with him versus playing in front of him today, I think it was just big crowds no matter what,” Rose said. “Obviously, people are excited about watching Tiger play again. … It’s exciting for people to get a look at him back at his best and it will be fun to play with him.”

Rory McIlroy made enough birdies to offset his mistakes in a round of 68. He was two shots behind.

Woods last shared the 36-hole lead at the Wyndham Championship in 2015. He wound up in a tie for 10th, and then was gone from the PGA Tour for the next 17 months while he recovered from two back surgeries. One more back surgery followed that brief return in 2017, and it’s been a slow road back.

Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler also had at least a share of the lead at some point, only to lose ground. It was a slow bleed for Fowler, who went birdie-free over his last 12 holes and shot 39 on the back nine for a 72 that put him four behind. It was a sudden drop for Rahm, who took bogey from the rough on the 14th hole and then put his tee shot into the water on the par-3 15th for a double bogey and a 68.

Rahm was three behind at 136, along with Billy Horschel and Patrick Cantlay, each with a tournament-best 65, and Justin Thomas, who hit tee shots all over East Lake and somehow managed a 69 to keep alive his bid as the first back-to-back FedEx Cup champion.

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PRO GOLF

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP

Friday’s Second Round

At East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta

Justin Rose 66-67–133 -7

Tiger Woods 65-68–133 -7

Rory McIlroy 67-68–135 -5

Billy Horschel 71-65–136 -4

Patrick Cantlay 71-65–136 -4

Jon Rahm 68-68–136 -4

Justin Thomas 67-69–136 -4

Kyle Stanley 69-68–137 -3

Rickie Fowler 65-72–137 -3

Hideki Matsuyama 72-66–138 -2

Tommy Fleetwood 69-69–138 -2

Xander Schauffele 68-70–138 -2

Tony Finau 67-71–138 -2

Gary Woodland 66-72–138 -2

Aaron Wise 70-69–139 -1

Dustin Johnson 69-70–139 -1

Webb Simpson 69-70–139 -1

Paul Casey 68-71–139 -1

Kevin Na 72-68–140 E

Jason Day 68-73–141 +1

Marc Leishman 73-69–142 +2

Patton Kizzire 71-71–142 +2

Bubba Watson 70-72–142 +2

Cameron Smith 70-73–143 +3

Phil Mickelson 73-72–145 +5

Francesco Molinari 70-75–145 +5

Keegan Bradley 73-73–146 +6

Patrick Reed 72-74–146 +6

Bryson DeChambeau 71-75–146 +6

Brooks Koepka 69-78–147 +7

Champions Tour

Sanford International

Friday’s First-Round Leaders

At Minnehaha Country Club; Sioux Falls, S.D.

Jerry Smith 30-33–63 -7

Brandt Jobe 32-31–63 -7

Steve Stricker 30-33–63 -7

David McKenzie 32-31–63 -7

Scott McCarron 32-32–64 -6

Lee Janzen 32-32–64 -6

Paul Goydos 31-33–64 -6

Mike Goodes 33-32–65 -5

John Huston 32-33–65 -5

Todd Hamilton 32-33–65 -5

Bob Estes 31-34–65 -5

Kevin Sutherland 33-32–65 -5

Tommy Armour III 34-32–66 -4

Wes Short, Jr. 32-34–66 -4

Dudley Hart 33-33–66 -4

Scott Parel 34-32–66 -4

Rocco Mediate 33-33–66 -4

Duffy Waldorf 34-32–66 -4

Kirk Triplett 33-33–66 -4