Tiger Woods thrills fans to claim lead at Australian Open

TIGER WOODSTIGER WOODS has the outright lead at the halfway mark of the Australian Open at The Lakes in Sydney.

The former world number one’s superb second-round 67 has him nine-under par for the tournament – one shot clear of veteran Peter O’Malley and two ahead of young gun Jason Day.A host of other big names are also in the mix, including Adam Scott, while five-time winner Greg Norman and defending champion Geoff Ogilvy both made the cut after being in danger of missing the weekend action.Earlier, Woods thrilled thousands of fans at The Lakes with a birdie-filled second round to storm into the lead.

The American peeled off seven birdies, including five on the front nine after starting on the 10th hole, to seize the outright lead from O’Malley, with a host of other stars in the mix.Starting the day three shots back, Woods at one point held a two-stroke advantage over the classy field before two bogeys on the back nine slowed his progress.

But the 14-time major champion’s five-under-par 67 nevertheless had him nine-under for the tournament and set for an exciting weekend assault as he eyes his first tournament victory since the 2009 Australian Masters.O’Malley collected half a dozen birdies in an unblemished second round to sit on Woods’ heels, while Australian young gun Jason Day is only two shots back after a second-round 68.Day birdied the par-3 ninth, his last hole of the day, to join overnight leader Jarrod Lyle at seven-under, one stroke clear of last year’s runner-up Matt Jones and Americans Nick Watney and Dustin Johnson.

Lyle and Johnson both had afternoon tee times.Adam Scott also remains in contention after an up-and-down round of 71 left the world No.8 at four-under and five adrift of Woods.The morning, though, belonged to Woods after he backed up his first bogey-free round in nine months yesterday with a stirring charge up the leaderboard.He birdied the 10th, 13th, 14th and 16th holes before draining a two-metre downhill putt on No.18 to claim sole leadership for the first time in the tournament.

‘‘It feels good to actually be there (atop the leaderboard) actually playing properly, not slicing the ball everywhere,’’ Woods said.‘‘I’m hitting the ball good.’’Watney had hit the front solo when he eagled the 528-metre par-5 11th – the same hole John Daly imploded on with seven shots in the water yesterday – but bogeyed the 17th to allow Woods to go top.American Hunter Mahan withdrew from the Open today, troubled by shoulder and neck soreness, but said he would be fine to tackle Greg Norman’s Internationals in next week’s Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne. – SMH