Despite another ho-hum 66 that gave him a share of the lead yesterday at the National Car Rental Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Tiger Woods considered the optimal scoring conditions and said anything could happen over the weekend.
The trick is to convince everyone else of that.
At the start of a hectic worldwide schedule, Woods continued to show peak form after a three-week layoff with a variety of shots that carried him into the lead after two rounds with Jim Carter and Bob Tway.
"I don't like losing, whether it's a non-major, a World Golf Championship, overseas or here in the States, it doesn't matter," Woods said. "I want to win. I tee it up with that intent."
Tway, who has to win this week to qualify for the Tour Championship, and Carter each had a 7-under 65 and were tied with Woods at 12-under 132. Because Carter and Tway finished their rounds first, they will be in the final pairing today.
Woods will be paired with Ernie Els, who shot a 65 and was one stroke behind. Els's only victory this year was in Los Angeles, where he held off Woods and David Duval in the final round.
That has all but been forgotten by now, thanks to an incredible stretch of golf by Woods. He has matured into a far more dominant player than he was two years ago, when he won the Masters with a record score by a record margin and added three other victories.
Woods has celebrated victory six times in his past nine events, including the Ryder Cup. A victory today would make Woods, who won the event in 1996 as a 20-year-old, the first player since Tom Watson in 1980 to win six times on the PGA Tour in a season.
"I expect him to be there whenever he is in the field," Carter said.
* NIKE TOUR: Jeff Gove and Bob Heintz remained tied for the lead at 8-under 136 after two rounds of the tour championship at Highland Oaks Golf Course in Dothan, Ala.
Edward Fryatt was third after a 69, three strokes back, while Marco Dawson shot a 68 and was at 140. Brian Tennyson (68), Jim M. Johnson (70) and Marco Gortana (72) were another stroke back.
Casey Martin, fighting for his PGA Tour card, shot a 71 and was eight strokes off the pace at 144, tied for 16th with five others. Martin entered the $400,000 event, the last on the Nike Tour this season, 12th on the money list. The top 15 finishers on the money list earn their exempt status to play on the PGA Tour next year.
* SENIORS: Bruce Fleisher, the Senior PGA Tour's leading money winner, shot a 6-under 65 and held a one-stroke lead over Hale Irwin, who is second in earnings, and Jim Ahern after the first round of the $1 million Kaanapali (Hawaii) Classic.
Tied for fourth at 67 were 1994 champion Bob Murphy and Brian Barnes. Jim Colbert, who won in Kaanapali in 1991, and Steve Veriato, a Monday qualifier, were at 68.
"With three weeks left, I'm trying to stay a step ahead of Irwin," said Fleisher, who leads Irwin, the leading senior money winner the last two years, by about $216,000.
The 54-hole tournament ends Sunday with the winner getting $150,000.