A strong finish by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson made them feel better about their rounds at the Farmers Insurance Open on Friday, and their chances of catching leader Bill Haas.
Haas, slowly turning into the player everyone thought he would be, made eight birdies on the Torrey Pines South Course for a 6-under 66, giving him a two-shot lead over Anthony Kim going into the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open.
"A nice 36 (holes) on the weekend could turn this into a great week," Haas said.
Mickelson, with his wife in the gallery this week for the first time since she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2009, turned an ordinary round into a decent one with back-to-back birdies for a 3-under 69 on the North Course. He was three shots behind along with defending champion Ben Crane, four of Mickelson's Ryder Cup teammates, and John Daly.
Winless since his surprise playoff victory seven years ago at Torrey Pines, Daly overcame a double bogey on the North Course for a 69 and found himself in the hunt for the first time since he slimmed down and started wearing the loudest clothes on tour. Could this be another out-of-nowhere win?
"With me, you don't know what to expect," Daly said.
Woods, who has won his last five starts on his jewel along with Pacific, managed to stay in the game. He had a 69 and was five shots behind, but with only 11 players ahead of him.
Woods ran off four straight birdies early in his round and at one point was only three shots out of the lead. But he twice took two shots to get out of bunkers and was as many as eight shots behind until the final half-hour. He laced a 5-iron into 12 feet for birdie on the 16th, made a 20-foot par putt after a plugged lie in the face of a bunker on the 17th, then hit 5-wood from 248 yards over the water and onto the green on the par-5 18th, two-putting for birdie.
"It was a round that easily could have slipped away," Woods said.
The finish left him optimistic about ending the longest drought of his career. It has been 14 months since his last victory, dating to the Australian Masters in November 2009 just before crashing his car on a night that plunged his personal life and career into turmoil.
Kim played alongside Woods and birdied his opening four holes. He was tied for the lead after a tap-in birdie at the 10th, but bogeyed the next hole and finished with seven pars, including a three-putt on the 18th.
"I'm really close," Kim said. "I know I've said it a million times. I'm not going to say it again. I've just got to make a couple of birdies and see what happens."
The lead belongs to Haas, who was at 11-under 133. The son of former PGA Tour player Jay Haas, he was a can't-miss kid who plodded along until winning twice last year. He arrived in San Diego after a playoff loss last week at the Bob Hope Classic.
Mickelson did his work on what used to be the pitch-and-putt North Course, where the rough is deeper than ever and the fairways are narrow and at times extremely difficult to hit. He missed several chances until the end of his round.
"To make those last two felt good, and I'm looking forward to the weekend," he said.