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Tiger Woods put the rest of the field four shots behind him heading into Saturday. (Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Woods separates himself from pack and closes in on crown

Tiger Woods opened and closed his second round with bogeys, but made magic in between to seize control of the PGA Championship. Now, he says, his goal is to put himself in position for a big finish.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

CHASKA, Minn. -- It could have been better. It could have been worse.

As he has so often done during his career, though, Tiger Woods made like a magician, pulling a rabbit out of a hat when he shot 70 on a windy Friday to take a four-shot lead at the midway point of the 91st PGA Championship. 

"I could have easily shot a couple over par today, but I turned it into an under par round," a satisfied -- and hungry -- Woods said simply after he signed his scorecard shortly after 8 p.m. ET.

The game's No. 1 player opened and closed his round with bogeys but hung tough in between with the capricious winds posing as much of a challenge as Hazeltine National itself. He managed five birdies, including three in a row starting on the 14th hole, to seize control and separate himself from the pack.

"It was pretty blustery," Woods acknowledged. "It was changing directions a little bit here and there. It was affecting putts.  You had to play the wind on putts. And it was all in all just a very difficult day. I had to stay very patient and hopefully you can take advantage of opportunities if you ever got any.
   
"I just had to kind of grind it out."

So Woods owns a four-stroke lead over Vijay Singh, Lucas Glover, Ross Fisher, Brendan Jones and Padraig Harrington -- and it's lost on no one that he's a perfect 8-for-8 in majors when holding at least a share of the second-round lead. Woods is 32 of 38 overall, including his last 12, so the numbers are as formidable as the man who architected them. 

"I would go along the lines of it's got to break at some stage," Harrington, the defending champion, said with a smile. "Might as well tell myself that. In fairness to Tiger, that's never going to last forever. Maybe he'll be 60 when it's broken, but it's never going to last forever. Maybe I'll be the guy who does it. I suppose that's the way to look at it.
   
"At the end of the day I can't control what Tiger's going to do for the next 36 holes. But I have control over myself. So that's what I've got to focus on. Play my golf, be a bit more trusting. And if Tiger plays the golf he's capable of on the weekend, he'll be a winner. But if I play my golf, hopefully it will push him a little and we'll see what happens."

Harrington, who shot 73 in the second round, played with Woods for the second straight day and third dating back to their duel at Firestone Country Club on Sunday. Woods won the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational that Sunday, which was his second title in as many weeks leading up to the PGA Championship.

"His game looked solid again today," Harrington reported. "I think he's good in that position because of the fact he's a good front runner. He can pick and choose his shots and he's not been pushed into shots he doesn't have to hit. He's very good at that and waits his chances. 

"And he hits enough close and then he holes enough putts, and all that sort of stuff adds up to he'll probably break par twice on the weekend so the rest of us are going to have to play really well."

Woods certainly is. He's hit all but seven greens in regulation and all but seven fairways during the first two rounds to rank tied for first and fourth in those categories, respectively. His putter hasn't been quite as cooperative, although it's hardly a cause for concern as it had been in the first two majors -- particularly given condition of the inconsistent greens.

"The greens were interesting today," Woods said. "They were pretty bumpy. The poa was picking up and later in the day you go the more there's a difference between the poa and the bent.

"So that's one of the reasons why starting out early today I had a hard time getting putts to the hole because I didn't want to leave those 3-, 4-footers coming back. Consequently I was leaving the putt short. You have to be aggressive on this stuff, but then again you don't want to leave a putt coming back.

"But it was just a tough day all in all, just had to be very patient and hopefully you had to play the wind on some putts, too, some of the holes that were more exposed. You had to give a little bit more and just made for a very interesting day."

Woods, who has won five times already this season but is looking for his first major, was able to limit his mistakes on Friday. A perfect example came as he made the turn. He three-putted the 10th hole for bogey but came up with clutch par putts on the next two holes to limit the potential damage before embarking on his bountiful birdie run.

"You're going to make bogeys," Woods acknowledged. "You're going to make mistakes out there today. And sometimes it is going to be your fault. Sometimes it's going to be bad timing on the wind. It's just one of those days. 

"... And if you have an opportunity to take advantage of it and make a birdie, you can't afford to miss those opportunities.  They're not going to come very often. And I did that today. I made my share of good par putts and also made my share of good birdie putts."

So Woods will now give Harrington a day off and play with Singh in Saturday's final group at 2:40 p.m. ET. The last time the two played together in a major was in the first two rounds of the 2004 PGA Championship that Singh went on to win. They also played in the first two rounds of the 2007 Deutsche Bank Championship.

"Tomorrow you position yourself," Woods said. "Tomorrow is supposed to be windy and Sunday's not supposed to be very good. So you have to make sure that you're there and in position and I know Vijay isn't going to make a lot of mistakes. He doesn't.  He's won a bunch of tournaments in his 40s. I think it is the most ever.
   
"He's going to be very consistent. And it's going to be a lot of fun for both of us tomorrow."
 

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