THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Tiger Woods knows he’s playing better than he has in the last two years, and he has the leaderboard to prove it.
Woods hit a half-dozen extraordinary shots Friday in the Chevron World Challenge on his way to a 5-under 67, giving him a three-shot lead over Matt Kuchar and K.J. Choi at Sherwood Country Club.
It was the second straight tournament that Woods had the 36-hole lead. Three weeks ago at the Australian Open, he was one shot ahead until a 75 in the third round. Woods wound up in third place at The Lakes, his best finish of the year. With each round, it looks as though his best might not be too far behind.
Woods had two eagles, and nearly had a third with a flop shot from behind the 13th green that he was still talking about long after his round. Not even a double bogey on the par-3 15th hole when a gust knocked his ball into the water could keep him from a comfortable lead after two rounds.
“I want the lead after four days,” said Woods, winless in his last 26 official starts dating to the Australian Masters in November 2009. “Two days is nice, but four days is even better. I know I’m playing better, and it’s nice to see my position on the leaderboard equating to it.”
Woods was at 8-under 136 and will play in the final group Saturday with Kuchar.
Kuchar shot 67 to match Woods and Zach Johnson for the best score of the day. Choi had a 73. Johnson and Hunter Mahan (68) were four shots behind at 4-under 140 in the 18-player event.
NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE
SUN CITY, South Africa — Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell shot a 5-under 67 to take a one-stroke lead over Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Jason Dufner and Robert Karlsson in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
McDowell birdied two of the last three holes after dropping two strokes with a double bogey on the par-5 14th. He had a 7-under 137 total on the Gary Player Country Club course.
Top-ranked Luke Donald was tied for eighth at 3 under after a 71.
HONG KONG OPEN
HONG KONG — U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy shot a 1-under 69 for a share of the second-round lead with Spain’s Alvaro Quiros in the Hong Kong Open.
Quiros also had a 69 to match McIlroy at 7-under 133 on the Hong Kong Golf Club’s Fanling Course.
Thailand’s Panupol Pittayarat (65) and Scotland’s Richie Ramsay (66) were a stroke back.
Defending champion Ian Poulter was six strokes back after a 68.
John Daly made the cut by a stroke, following his opening 74 with a 68.
PGA TOUR QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT
LA QUINTA, Calif. — Will Claxton shot a 3-under 69 on PGA West’s TPC Stadium Course to increase his lead to two strokes after the third round of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament.
Claxton had a 13-under 203 total.
The top 25 in the six-round event will earn 2012 PGA Tour cards.
Bobby Gates and Matt Jones were tied for second. Gates shot a 68, and Jones had a 70. They also played the Stadium course. David Duval was tied for 115th at 1 over after a 73 on the Stadium course.
LPGA FINAL QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Christine Song shot a 2-under 70 in windy conditions on LPGA International’s Champions Course to take a five-stroke lead after the third round of the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament.
Song She had a 10-under 206 total in the five-round event.
The top 40 and ties will receive LPGA Tour membership.
Jennie Lee was second after a 69 on the Champions Course. Jacqui Concolino and amateur Stephanie Kono were 3 under. Concolino had a 71, and Kono shot a 75. They also played the Champions Course.
NEW ZEALAND OPEN
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Two-time PGA Tour winner Craig Parry birdied the final three holes for a 3-under 69 and a share of the second-round lead in the New Zealand Open.
The 45-year-old Australian matched compatriot Brad Kennedy and New Zealand’s Josh Geary at 5 under on the Clearwater Golf Club course. Kennedy had a 71, and Geary shot a 68.