Woods and Singh in a showdown at Quail Hollow

Tiger Woods has finished out of the top 10 only once this season.
Richard Schultz/WireImage.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Tiger Woods finally had the lead to himself on a chilly Friday at the Wachovia Championship as he walked toward the eighth green, only two holes left in his second round and his ball 6 feet below the cup for another birdie.

Padraig Harrington was one shot behind and warming up on the range. Vijay Singh was four shots back in the group behind.

Things sure can change in a hurry at Quail Hollow.

On a day when the steamy South felt more like late fall in New England, the leaderboard shifted just as suddenly. Within a half-hour, Woods and Singh were tied for the lead to set up a weekend showdown between the top two players on the PGA Tour this year.

Woods missed his short birdie putt, then took his only bogey of the round when he drove into the trees on No. 9 and had to settle for a 4-under 68. Singh played the final three holes in 3 under to salvage a 71 and join Woods at 6-under 138.

Also tied for the lead was Arron Oberholser, who also emerged from obscurity quickly with birdies on his last three holes for a 69. They had a one-shot lead over Ted Purdy (69) and Jason Bohn (72), who were among six players who had at least a share of the lead.

The other was Harrington, and his head must have been spinning. The Irishman made only five pars, ran off four straight birdies to build a one-shot lead, then threw it all away by hitting into the creek on the 18th to finish with a triple bogey and a 75.

Oberholser, who lost in a playoff at Quail Hollow three years ago, cares more about his own game than sharing a spot on the leaderboard with the only two guys to be ranked No. 1 in the world this decade.

“You can’t control what they’re going to do,” Oberholser said. “If you could control what they were going to do, yeah, I’d be running with shoulder pads on, ready to go.”

Woods and Singh will be in the last group, a showdown of stars rarely seen at majors in a tournament that has all the trappings of one.

They are the only two-time winners on the PGA Tour this year. Singh is leading the FedEx Cup race by 703 points over Woods, while Woods is No. 1 on the money list by $12,691 over Singh.

The last time they were paired together was the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship on Labor Day, when Woods turned a three-shot deficit into a two-shot victory by closing with a 63. And it was at that same tournament in 2004 when Singh beat Woods to end Woods’ five-year reign at No. 1 in the world.

But it’s only the halfway point at Quail Hollow, and 11 players are within three shots of the lead, including Phil Mickelson.

“I’ve got to go fix a few things,” said Woods, who hit only five fairways and twice swatted his bag with the handle of his driver after watching tee shots sail into the trees. “I’m very pleased with my score. I felt I pretty much have maximized my rounds.”

Woods had three birdies through five holes, but his round was memorable for his par saves — five in a seven-hole stretch around the turn. And while he did well to not drop a shot until the end, he was gritting his teeth over missing birdie putts from 3 feet on the par-5 fifth hole and from 6 feet on the eighth.

That roar he heard behind him as he walked up the eighth fairway was Singh lacing a 3-iron over the water to the par-5 seventh green, the ball catching a ridge and rolling within 3 feet of the cup. The big Fijian followed that with a sand wedge that spun back within a foot of the cup on No. 8 for a birdie. And unlike Woods, he managed to save par on the ninth.

Ken Duke, the Nationwide Tour player of the year in 2006, had another 70 and was at 4-under 140.

The group at 141 included Mickelson, who hit only one fairway on his front nine and traded birdies and bogeys on his way to a 71.

“I got up-and-down a lot to kind of salvage the round, but certainly you can’t play all four days like that,” Mickelson said.

Even with temperatures in the 50s, Woods stayed on the practice range with swing coach Hank Haney for nearly two hours, trying to sort out a swing that made him rely too much on the putter.

“Today was part of a pretty good balance,” Woods said. “I missed a couple of short ones, but also got away with a couple of bad drives and made a pretty good up-and-down after a terrible iron shot. All in all, pretty balanced.”

Despite the quick burst of birdies, what saved his round was par, none bigger than the par-5 15th. After getting stuck behind a bush and hitting out into the rough, Woods had 5-wood up the hill for his third shot and came up short. He pitched to 8 feet and escaped with par. The other big save came at No. 3, when Woods badly pulled an iron left of the green. He was some 50 feet away, but bumped a 7-iron up the slope and barely on the green, watching it roll to 8 feet.

Singh overcame a miserable start, which included three straight bogeys to end his front nine, the last one a three-putt from 10 feet.

“I couldn’t get the greens this morning,” Singh said. “Maybe the temperature change must have done something to my hands. Finishing eagle-birdie, that was very comfortable.”

And the fun could be ready to start.

DIVOTS: John Daly made four double bogeys and a quadruple bogey on his way to an 87, his highest score on the PGA Tour since he shot 87 in the final round of the Bay Hill Invitational, when he had an 18 on one hole. It was the 50th time that Daly has shot 80 or higher on the PGA Tour. … Woods’ playing partners, Paul Stankowski and Craig Perks, finished at combined 26 over. … Tripp Isenhour made bogey on his last hole that pushed the cut to 3-over 147, letting 15 players into the weekend.

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