Tiger Woods fired his lowest career round at TPC Sawgrass, and his best score of the year, with a seven-under par 65 Saturday to share the early clubhouse lead at the Players Championship.
The 14-time major champion took advantage of continuing hot and humid conditions to match Jordan Spieth on eight-under par after 54 holes.
The duo ended their rounds nearly 90 minutes before overnight leader and fellow American Webb Simpson was set to tee off leading by five shots at 15-under par.
The previous best Players round by Woods was a 66 while his lowest this year in his seven prior events had been a 68 as he returns to US PGA Tour play after missing most of the past two years with back injuries.
“I finally got off to a good start in birdieing the first couple of holes and I just kept it rolling,” Woods said.
“I played a lot of good shots out there today and it was nice to see a few putts go in. Overall on the whole day I just hit a lot of quality shots and a 65 was probably the highest I could have shot.”
Woods had an anxious Friday afternoon wait before joining Spieth and Justin Thomas making the cut right on the one-under mark.
The 42-year old former world number one quickly lit-up the Florida course with four birdies in his opening five holes and had a huge crowd roaring with delight, cheers being heard as far as the course car parks.
Woods made the turn at six-under with birdies at seven and the ninth and went to eight-under with birdies at 11 and the short 12th hole, where he put a 40-yard chip shot to six feet.
He made his only bogey at the 14th before posting four closing pars to be tied for the clubhouse lead with Spieth, who also posted a 65.
Woods said he “felt a lot more comfortable with my driver and could be a bit more aggressive off the tees and consequently I had a lot of 9-irons and on down into the greens as the ball is just flying forever in this humidity.”
“The ball is going a long way and the golf course is playing short.”
If there was any disappointment in his round, Woods said it was getting himself to eight-under for his round through 12 holes but then finishing at seven-under for the day.
“I mean to be eight-under there through 12, realistically I probably could have got a couple more out of it and got to 10 for the day,” he said.
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits from Chris Kelleher)