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November 7, 2009

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Woods, Watney one stroke ahead

TIGER Woods birdied his final hole to complete a second-round five-under 67 that moved him into a share of the lead with American compatriot Nick Watney at the halfway stage of the WGC-HSBC Champions yesterday.

The world No. 1 had spurned a raft of birdie chances early on another sunny day at the Sheshan International but made no mistake with a short putt at the 18th and joined first-round leader Watney, who shot a 70, on 10-under for the tournament. World No. 2 Phil Mickelson picked up his sixth birdie of the day at the last for a 66 to stand a stroke behind the leaders, alongside compatriot Ryan Moore (69) and Spain's Alvaro Quiros (66) in a share of third.

Woods, runner-up on both his previous visits to Shanghai, backed off his opening drive a couple of times because of cameras clicking in the gallery but recovered his composure sufficiently to start his round with a birdie.

There followed a succession of missed birdie putts before an errant drive at the sixth left him bashing a rubbish bin with his club in frustration.

The error resulted in the sole blemish of his round but he finally got a putt down at the ninth and came home in four-under-par, the highlight of his back nine a 20-foot chip-in for birdie from the rough above a greenside bunker at the 16th.

"Today got off to a good start and I birdied the very first hole," Woods told reporters. "But after that, I didn't really make any putts. I had certainly some looks at them and didn't really capitalize on anything.

"It certainly was a little bit frustrating, but the guys weren't running off and hiding. I knew if I could just play the back nine at three-under par... I figured that would probably be a pretty good number. And I did better than that."

Watney, who fired a course record-equalling 64 in the first round, also finished strongly with birdies at his last two holes to make up for a double bogey at the fourth.

"Whatever the lead is at, that's not going to win the golf tournament so I need to go out and keep playing well and keep making birdies to have any shot," the 28-year-old Californian said.

Mickelson, the winner here two years ago, chipped-in twice in a round which also got better towards the end, with birdies at three of his last four holes.

"I'm pleased with where I put myself after two rounds," the left-hander added. "There's a lot of guys there and I'll need to play very well on the weekend, but I'm in a good position."

Anthony Kim hit a huge five wood on his way to eagling the 18th for a 69, which left him alone in sixth place on eight-under as Americans dominated the leaderboard. Compatriot Pat Perez made a bogey on his final hole for a 69 that put him at seven-under 137.

South African Ernie Els hit a hole-in-one at the par three sixth hole but a couple of double-bogeys undid his good work and he registered a 71 for a share of 23rd on three-under.


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