- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tiger Woods’ ultimate genius is sometimes most evident on his off days.

This week’s host not only survived a spotty ball-striking round at Congressional on Friday, he turned a would-be 71 into a 66 with his magical course management and some timely putting, surging to 10-under to take the clubhouse lead halfway through Friday’s play at the AT&T National.

“Today I hit the ball a little bit scratchy at times, but I putted well” said the 33-year-old Woods, who started on the back nine and once again bogeyed the diabolical 11th before rescuing his round by sprinkling five pointblank birdies among a handful of superb scrambling par saves. “I didn’t drive the ball as well as I did yesterday or hit it as crisp [with my irons]. But it was nice to get a score out of it.”

Woods’ second-round Houdini act is extremely bad news for the rest of the field, because Tiger almost never falters from the front. His fourth-place finish at the Quail Hollow Championship earlier this season, which he led after an opening-round 65, was the first time in recent memory Woods has stumbled with post-round pole position in any event.

“I still have another round to put myself into position, but I have to hit it better than I did today to get there,” said Woods, who reiterated that his surgically repaired left knee feels 100 percent. “The knee is fine. Physically, I’m probably back to feeling better than I have in 10 years.”

Given his daunting record over that decade (60 PGA Tour victories and 13 majors since the start of 1999), such a revelation has to be truly deflating for the rest of the 120-man field charged with attempting to chase him down over the weekend.

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