Strong start the key to Woods' Sawgrass challenge

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At one stage Woods looked capable of threatening his career-best round of 61, or going even lower, but the birdies then dried up.

"I felt more comfortable driving the ball and being a little more aggressive off the tees and getting it down there, squeezing it around some of these corners and consequently I had a lot of nine-irons on down".

"I birdied the first couple of holes and I just kept it rolling from there", he said.

And Woods is not stopping there, as he hopes to continue to rebuilding his game: "Eventually, I want to put all of the pieces together". "I hit a lot of good shots today and it was nice to see a few putts go in". "I hit a lot of good quality shots, I hit a lot of - well I hit some shots in the correct spots, which was nice".

It saw Woods make the turn in 30, two shots better than his previous best front-nine score at Sawgrass and his lowest nine-hole score since 2009.

His only complaint was not keeping it rolling.

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As his 36-hole score bounced around on both sides of the cut line late Friday afternoon, long after Woods left the premises in a tinted courtesy vehicle, whatever pre-Masters momentum he accrued at the other three PGA Tour stops in Florida seemed like a distant memory.

The three-time major victor is now 8 under overall and was seven strokes back of Webb Simpson's 15-under lead at the time he finished, but he at least set himself up to have a chance on Sunday.

"To be eight-under there through 12 - realistically, I probably could have got a couple more out of it and got to 10 (under) for the day". "But I'll take it".

Kuchar's tee shot went 171 yards to the right greenside bunker and his sand shot went 17 yards to the green where he had a two-putt for bogey on the 181-yard par-3 13th. A day after making just one putt longer than 6 feet, he missed only one inside 13 feet in the third round. "That was basically the difference", he said. By the time Woods and playing partner Mackenzie Hughes got to 16, the frenzied crowd was dozens deep and craning for a glimpse of golf's biggest star.

Jordan Spieth was also among the early starters and, like Woods, sprinted up the leaderboard with a seven-under 65. "Obviously his putting kind of speaks for itself, but in that 10- to 20-foot range, he's just so solid, and he rolled in some really nice putts today". So the ball is just going a long way today, this golf course is playing very short and with this amount of humidity, the greens are going to be holding all day. I think that some of the guys will probably shoot better scores than I did out there.

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