Tiger hits the lead in Australian Open

Tiger hits the lead in Australian Open

SYDNEY - Agence France-Presse
Tiger hits the lead in Australian Open

US golfer Tiger Woods plays a shot on the 17th fairway during the second round of the Australian Open golf tournament in Sydney on Friday. AP photo

Tiger Woods says his confidence is returning as he vaulted to the halfway lead in the Australian Open at The Lakes on Friday in pursuit of his first tournament victory in two years.

It is the first time the former world number one has led after a round since the third round of the Chevron World Challenge last December.

The 14-time major winner transferred his practice form to tournament play as he fired seven birdies in a five-under 67 for a one-shot lead over veteran Australian Peter O’Malley after 36 holes.

Woods, who has not won since the 2009 Australian Masters to send his world ranking tumbling to 58, backed up Thursday’s unblemished opening round of four-under 68 in a sign of a long overdue return to form.

“I’m basically playing the way I have been playing at home, it’s finally come to the golf course in a tournament setting,” Woods said.

“I’ve been hitting like this at home, but it just hasn’t come out at a tournament.

“It’s progression. I’ve been through some changes before and that’s what happened. It takes a little bit of time, but once it starts coming the confidence starts building.”

Woods showed an inkling of the form that once dominated world golf for more than a decade.

“I derive a lot of my confidence from practice. I am getting ample practice time,” he said.

“That is something that I have not done in the last couple of years as I’ve been battling injuries and have not been able to get the amount of reps (repetitions) I am used to.

“That has all changed. I have been healthy enough to get those reps in and playing a ton of golf at home and I’ve been able to get back into that old routine again and it has worked.”

Woods ripped through five birdies in his outward nine holes to seize the outright lead and split two more birdies and two bogeys coming home to finish on nine-under 135. “I played well today, I could have been lower on what would have been my first nine holes and basically I felt I didn’t miss a shot and even though I shot five under today I felt it could have been eight or nine,” he said.