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Golf-Sizzling Woods surges three ahead at East Lake

ATLANTA, Sep 14 (Reuters) Tiger Woods, who has made a habit of producing the remarkable, took control of the Tour Championship today with a sizzling run of five birdies and an eagle in the second round.

Although the world number one lost momentum with two bogeys after the turn, he rolled in a 17-footer to birdie the par-three last for a seven-under 63.

Woods ended a damp day at East Lake Golf Club three ahead of the field, breaking the tournament record by three shots with a 13-under total of 127.

Fellow American Woody Austin was alone in second place after shooting a 65, finishing one ahead of compatriot Mark Calcavecchia (66), South African Tim Clark (69) and title-holder Adam Scott of Australia (66).

Woods, two strokes off the pace after the weather-hit first round was completed earlier in the day, lit up the tournament with a blistering front nine of seven-under 28.

Having returned a first-round 64 under cloudy skies in the morning, he launched his red-hot streak by holing a nine-footer to birdie the par-four fourth.

He then holed out from a greenside bunker at the fifth, prompting a bashful smile, rolled in a 13-footer at the sixth and an 11-footer at the seventh to take the outright lead for the first time.

Woods calmly sank a seven-footer at the par-four eighth before stunning the huge galleries packed around the green at the par-five ninth with his long-range putt for eagle.

TOUR RECORD His nine-hole effort was two strokes short of the PGA Tour record, an eight-under 26 set by fellow American Corey Pavin in the first round of last year's Milwaukee Championship.

Woods failed to maintain that form after the turn as intermittent rain showers swept across the par-70 layout.

He bogeyed the par-four 12th after his approach ended up in a bunker guarding the front of the green and also dropped at the par-four 16th where he pushed his tee shot into trees.

However, he birdied the par-five 15th, after getting up and down from just short of the green, and stretched his lead to three by picking up his final shot of the day at the last.

Overwhelming favourite to win his seventh title of the year and inaugural FedExCup honours, Woods has the million tournament firmly within his grasp.

At the halfway mark, he was well ahead of his two main FedExCup rivals, Phil Mickelson, at six under after carding a 66, and Steve Stricker, four under after a 67.

Either Woods or Stricker would claim the million bonus as the first FedExCup champion with victory this week, regardless of where the other players finish.

Mickelson, who skipped last week's BMW Championship won by Woods, would earn the bonus with victory at East Lake, as long as Woods finishes worse than second.

Reuters SZ VP0145

Story first published: Saturday, September 15, 2007, 2:02 [IST]
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