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November 14, 2009

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Woods takes charge in Melbourne

TIGER Woods battled swirling breezes and some wayward driving to card a patient 4 under-par 68 and take a three-stroke lead after the second round of the A$1.5 million (US$1.4 million) Australian Masters in Melbourne yesterday.

Woods, co-leader overnight, made two of his four birdies in his first two holes to take the outright lead, then held firm with six successive pars to finish with a 10-under total of 134 in bright sunshine at Kingston Heath Golf Club.

"Today I didn't really do anything great but I made two big par putts at nine and 14 to keep the round going," the world No. 1 said. "To shoot 68 today, I thought it was a pretty good number considering the conditions ... To not drop a shot today was hard. Those are always days that you feel quite good about."

The American's patience was in marked contrast to his nearest challengers, who threatened at times but crumbled with bogeys late on as the wind picked up in the afternoon.

Australian James Nitties, who shared a one-stroke lead with Woods and South Africa's Branden Grace overnight, was first to mount a challenge, clawing within a stroke with his third birdie on the par-five 14th.

He fell back, however, with two late bogeys to finish the day in second place on 137 with compatriot Greg Chalmers and American Jason Dufner, who stormed into contention with a seven-birdie 67.

Chalmers look capable of reeling in Woods, notching four birdies to soar to eight under, but stumbled with a bogey on the par-four 17th.

Despite struggling to get to grips with changeable winds that firmed up Kingston Heath's greens, Woods looked at home on the course, even though his first experience of it was a nine-hole practice on Tuesday.

The 14-time major champion had to cope with some wayward driving in the middle of the round, his tee-shots bouncing off spectators cramming the fairways on two occasions. However, he was able to conjure up some trademark recovery shots that helped him saved par.

With hot winds forecast for today, Woods is likely to find the greens a much tougher proposition at the weekend.


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