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Tiger Woods Stays Tied for 2018 Tour Championship Lead After Strong Round 2

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2018

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Tiger Woods of the United States reacts on the third tee during the second round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on September 21, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Tiger Woods followed up his excellent first-round performance at the 2018 Tour Championship with a solid 68 on Friday. 

Through 36 holes, Woods remains tied with Justin Rose for first place at seven-under par. 

Coming into Friday's round, Dylan Dethier of Golf.com noted the first nine holes were playing more difficult than the back nine.

"The front nine is playing about a stroke-and-a-half over par," Dethier wrote. "The back nine is playing a full shot under par. Neither Woods nor his competition needs to get off to a hot start to stay in good position; scoring will come with patience on the back nine."

Woods' only mistake on the front nine came on No. 9 when his tee shot went 218 yards into the fringe rough. He salvaged it by getting his second shot four feet from the hole but left his par putt inches short of the hole to settle for bogey. 

As was the case on Thursday, Woods was able to take advantage of opportunities when he got on the green. The 14-time major champion came alive on the back nine, needing just six putts to card three birdies from Nos. 10 through 15. 

After sitting at even par through 11 holes in the second round, Woods came to life with two birdies over the next three holes, including this one from 17 feet away on No. 14 that generated a muted version of his trademark fist pump:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

The fist pumps are out. 💪 @TigerWoods ties the lead. Again. #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/1UF6QlOfvh

The fist pump got more power behind it with this birdie on the par-three 15th hole, sending the crowd at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club into a frenzy:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

💪 @TigerWoods ... BANG. This place is buzzing. #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/QUbW3lNZ1d

Jason Sobel of the Action Network echoed Happy Gilmore to highlight Woods' clutch putting skills:

Jason Sobel @JasonSobelTAN

Uh-oh, somebody learned how to putt (again)...

It seemed at that point like Woods was going to cruise into the weekend with sole possession of the lead. The 16th hole saw him briefly unravel, starting with a tee shot that went into the left rough. His second shot found a bunker on the fairway, leading to a double-bogey that moved him back into a tie with Justin Rose. 

Looking to redeem himself and take positive momentum into the third round, Woods had a chance to eagle the 18th hole for the second consecutive day. Following a 337-yard drive, his second shot on the par-five went 220 yards to get on the green, but his eagle putt rolled just beyond the hole and forcing him to take a birdie. 

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

The longest drive of the week for @TigerWoods. 337 yards. 💪 #QuickHits https://t.co/3EUNxMV7Ph

Even with Woods' one big hiccup on No. 16, Justin Ray of the Golf Channel noted history is on his side to leave Atlanta with a victory:

Justin Ray @JustinRayGC

If Woods leads at the end of the day: Tiger has led/co-led after each of the 1st 2 rounds of a PGA Tour event 13 times since 2000. He went on to win 12 of them (lone exception - 2009 PGA Championship).

Saturday is going to be a critical turning point for Woods. The third round has been his best on the PGA Tour in 2018 with an average score of 68.2, second-best among all players. 

Woods has had just one third-round score worse than 68 since the Quicken Loans National in June. The stage is set for him to do something special this weekend. He's already proven himself capable of putting up a low score on this course.

Two more rounds like Woods had on Thursday and Friday could get him back in the winner's circle for the first time since 2013. 

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