Tiger in Command

Tiger Woods leads the Tour Championship, and the race for the FedEx Cup.
John Bazemore/AP

ATLANTA — One by one they came off the 18th green, sweaty and bone-tired.

The normally affable Justin Rose was at even par and too tired to talk. Jim Furyk was more frustrated than tired after a 69 left him at even par. Woody Austin was furious after missing an 8-foot birdie putt on 18.

Mostly, though, the grim, defeated body language of these 29 golfers was due to the name atop the leaderboard: Tiger Woods.

"This was a pretty good stretch today," Woods said after shooting 28 on the front nine and even par on the back for a 63 on Friday in the second round of the Tour Championship at East Lake. He was three ahead of Austin.

"I really played well," Woods continued. "I didn't particularly drive it as well as I would like, but I was able to fix it, and then I hit some good shots."

Many of them were with the most important club, the putter. Between the fourth and ninth holes, when he made five birdies and an eagle, he made over 111 feet worth of putts and a 63-foot sand shot.

"I mean, what can you do? He's making it from everywhere," said Steve Stricker, who played with Woods and shot 67 to get to four under. "He holes out a bunker shot. It was unbelievable after a while."

Most of the 30-man field played more than 18 holes Friday, finishing the first round at 8 a.m. before starting the second. In the afternoon the sun poked through and a light rain did little to alleviate the stifling humidity, adding to the misery of seeing and hearing Woods at his best.

Among those chasing him for the $10 million first prize in the FedEx Cup, only K.J. Choi, at eight under, was within five shots. Rory Sabbatini could manage only a second 68 for a four under total, not good enough at easy East Lake. Phil Mickelson was six under for the tournament after a disappointing four-under 66.

"I'm going to need to play some good golf here on the weekend," said Phil Mickelson, who missed several birdie putts on Friday. "I've felt like I've been playing fairly solid, but I have not gotten the ball as close to the hole or made as many putts as I would like. On this course there's a lot of birdies out there, so I have got to get aggressive."

East Lake has been such a pushover, only two players are over par for the week, Jonathan Byrd at one over and Brandt Snedeker at three over. Two players, Furyk and Rose, are at even, and the rest are in red numbers. The field has averaged a tidy 67.667 strokes over the first two days, and the weekend figures to be just as easy. A hard rain doused the course late Friday afternoon.

First-round leader Tim Clark, defending champion Adam Scott and Mark Calcavecchia were at nine under, four shots behind Woods.

"Certain tournaments you've just got to make a bunch of birdies, and this is one of them," Woods said. "You just can't make pars. For example, I mean, (Padraig) Harrington is a shot back going into the second round, shoots even par and gets run over by most of the field."

Those chasing Woods can only hope he'll be Saturday's Harrington. Austin wasn't counting on it.

"Anybody is hard to catch when they're playing great," he said, "especially if you happen to be the best player in the world."

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