ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Maybe those swing changes are paying off for Tiger Woods.
Woods moved into contention with a 3-under 69 Friday after three birdies over five holes on the back nine in the second round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, finishing two shots behind leader Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark (67).
“I’ve grown to understand what Sean (Foley) wants me to do and how my body is going to do those things and produce the numbers he wants me to produce,” Woods said.
Olesen made seven birdies in his first 12 holes for a one-shot lead over 18-year-old Gareth Maybin of Northern Ireland (70) and Matteo Mannasero of Italy (65).
“For me it’s very special. It’s not many years ago I was watching them on TV,” Olesen said of the world’s best golfers. “I know it’s tough, but I’m trying to keep playing my own game and do my best.”
Rory McIlroy finished with a 72 after a two-stroke penalty for brushing away sand in front of his ball on the fringe at the ninth hole.
The 22-year-old U.S. Open champion, playing again with Woods and top-ranked Luke Donald (72), opened with a bogey and double bogey on the third after an errant drive and some shaky putting.
He rallied with three birdies before a double bogey on the ninth. That’s when Donald spotted the sand infraction and called him on it.
Players are allowed to brush away sand on the green but not on the fringe.
“Wasn’t thinking clearly and a penalty there,” McIlroy said. “My ball was just maybe six feet off the green and there was a lot of sand in between my ball and the hole.”
McIlroy, the co-leader after the first round with a 67, managed two birdies on the next three holes after the infraction.
Woods started slowly with two birdies and a bogey on the front nine. He warmed up with birdies on the 11th, 12th and 15th before dropping a shot on No. 16 after an errant drive landed in deep rough.
“I thought I played well today,” Woods said. “I made a couple putts here and there, but it was tough out there. The greens got a little quicker, a little bit drier and the rough is certainly getting deeper and more lush.”
The best score of the day came from Manassero, who made seven birdies in a bogey-free round.
Woods is tied for fourth in a group that includes McIlroy and Robert Karlsson of Sweden (72).
Spain’s Sergio Garcia (69), Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (69) and South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel (70) are another shot back at 140.
Fourth-ranked Martin Kaymer (73) failed to make the cut in a tournament he has won three times.
Much of the attention was on Woods, who is trying to follow up his season-ending victory last month at the Chevron World Challenge with another win. That ended a two-year run without a victory, a period in which the 14-time major winner endured a series of injuries and turmoil in his personal life.
Woods had a bogey-free first round but admitted the greens fooled him much of the day. He seemed to figure them out Friday, making several key putts including a 10-footer for his birdie on the 15th.
Woods said he’s adapting to the new system under Foley.
“If you would have asked me (six to eight months ago) if I would understand the system as well as I do and the numbers I’m producing, I probably would have said no,” he said. “Now I do and when we talk, it’s very simple.”
McIlroy said he saw signs of the old Woods during the past two days, which featured a strong short game and ability to shape the most difficult shots.
“He’s definitely got the ball under control. He seems comfortable. He’s only had a couple bogeys in two days,” McIlroy said. “He’s not making many mistakes and he’s very consistent, his ball flight looks good. Really looking forward to battling over the weekend.”
Donald struggled with his drives much of the day, finishing six shots back. Third-ranked Lee Westwood (72) was another stroke back.
British Open winner Darren Clark missed the cut after shooting a 9-over 153. Others failing to qualify for play on the weekend included Colin Montgomerie of Scotland (147), Edoardo Molinari of Italy (149), Todd Hamilton of the United States (149) and Michael Campbell of New Zealand (149).
Stanley takes lead at Torrey Pines
SAN DIEGO — Kyle Stanley made more than enough birdies Friday to offset one big mistake, giving him a 4-under 68 on the South Course at Torrey Pines and a one-shot lead in the Farmers Insurance Open.
Stanley went over the back of the 14th green and into the hazard for a double bogey, but made five birdies the rest of the way and wound up one shot clear of Brandt Snedeker, who had a 64 on the North Course.
Stanley was at 14-under 130 going into the weekend, with the last two rounds on the South, which is 604 yards longer. That suits Stanley just fine; he’s one of the longer hitters on the PGA Tour.
Phil Mickelson could only manage a 68 on the North Course. He missed the cut at his hometown tournament for the first time in 10 years.