At Tour Championship, Tiger Woods shares 36-hole lead for first time since 2015

ATLANTA -- In several instances where Tiger Woods was a weekend contender during his 2018 comeback season, he found himself looking up at the leaders, fighting his way into contention, only to come up short.

Now, for the first time in more than three years, he has a share of the 36-hole lead in a PGA Tour event, having battled through a poor ball-striking day at East Lake Golf Club on Friday but still shooting a 2-under 68 to tie No. 1-ranked Justin Rose.

The duo will tee off last in Saturday's third round of the Tour Championship, both holding a two-shot advantage over Rory McIlroy.

"This is a tough golf course," said Woods, who leads at the halfway point of a tournament for the first time since the 2015 Wyndham Championship, where he tied for 10th. "A lot of pars are going to be made out here. That's basically what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to make a bunch of pars and sprinkle in a few birdies here and there."

And that is a good formula these days for Woods, who can't be expected to win a shootout but is far better served when a tough day like Friday doesn't hurt him. He has six top-10 finishes in 17 previous starts this year.

A good bit of his hard work Friday was undone by a double-bogey 6 at the 16th hole, where after taking a 2-shot lead with a birdie on 15, Woods got greedy from the rough after a poor drive and tried to find the green by hitting over a tree from 185 yards. His ball came up some 30 yards short -- plugged in a bunker.

He had to blast out to the side and wasn't able to get up and down, settling for a double-bogey that dropped him into a tie with Rose. Both players birdied the 18th hole to finish at 133, 7 under par.

"In hindsight, I probably should have just pitched out, and the worst I would have is a 5," Woods said. "And with my wedge game right now, a pretty high percentage I would have got that up-and-down. But I thought I could sneak it up there and get up on the upslope and have a good angle in there, and it just didn't work out."

Rose, who two weeks ago lost in a playoff at the BMW Championship to Keegan Bradley, nevertheless took over the No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career. The Englishman shot 67 on Friday and would capture the FedEx Cup -- and a $10 million bonus -- if he were to win the tournament.

A nine-time winner on the PGA Tour who also has another 11 international victories, Rose, 38, has been playing excellent golf for the better part of a year. Since last year's Tour Championship, he has four worldwide victories and 16 top-10 finishes.

He was second at each of the past two FedEx Cup playoff events as well.

"It's a cool story for sure," Rose said of Woods' comeback and playing with him Saturday. "I can't really think that way, though. Obviously people are excited about watching Tiger play again. He's obviously right on form and feeling very comfortable out there. Looks like he's driving it well, irons have been great all year, looks comfortable with the blade [putter].

"So it's exciting for people to get a look at him back at his best, and it will be fun to play with him."

But Woods was not at his best Friday. He warmed up poorly and had one of his worst driving performances dating to the PGA Championship, where he finished second to Brooks Koepka. Woods hit just 7 of 14 fairways and only 11 of 18 greens.

And yet, his only bogey was a three-putt at the ninth, and then the double came after those troubles on the 16th. He had birdies at the second, 12th, 14th, 15th and 18th.

"I didn't hit it very well overall today," Woods said. "Didn't quite have the sharpness that I had yesterday, and it was pretty evident. At least for the most part, I missed the ball in every spot that I needed to, so I always had a good angle in there. So that helps. And my short game has been good."

Woods is playing in the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013 and came into the event ranked 20th in the FedEx Cup standings. He needs a victory and numerous other scenarios to unfold in order to win his third FedEx Cup (2007, 2009).

Rose is ranked second in the standings and in position to claim the overall title and $10 million bonus. FedEx leader Bryson DeChambeau shot 75 and is 13 shots back in a tie for 27th.

McIlroy shot 68 and has made 12 birdies through two rounds to trail by two, while Billy Horschel (65), Patrick Cantlay (65), Jon Rahm (68) and Justin Thomas (69) are lurking in a tie for fourth, three strokes behind.

Five players who will compete for the U.S. next week at the Ryder Cup are outside of the top 20 and over par for the tournament -- Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, DeChambeau and Koepka.

Koepka, the U.S. Open and PGA Championship winner this year, shot 78 -- just his third score in the 70s in his past six tournaments and the highest since he returned in April from wrist surgery. He is last in the 30-man field.

"We're only halfway home, and this course, the way it's playing right now, you've got to be so patient," Woods said. "It's hard to make birdies, and on top of that, it's hard to get the ball close. It's very easy to make mistakes, make a few bogeys here and there. And look at most of the field, that's basically what they're doing."