By Mark Lamport-Stokes
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Rain or shine, Tiger Woods has generally thrived at Torrey Pines and it was no different on Friday as the six-times Farmers Insurance Open champion again brought his sharp form in practice out to the course.
Though Woods has not won a major title since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, he ended a lengthy barren run on the PGA Tour with three victories on the circuit last year and is upbeat about his prospects for this season.
"I'm excited about this year," the 14-times major champion told reporters after firing a seven-under-par 65 on a rain-saturated North Course to take a two-shot lead into Saturday's third round.
"I had a good year last year. I won three tournaments and was in contention in a few others, and that's a pretty good year. Understanding the game a little bit better, and I'm really excited about this year."
Asked what had contributed most to his confident demeanor this week, Woods replied: "I think the practice sessions more than anything. I've had beautiful practice sessions at home.
"If I can do it there, I can do it out here. Even though last week I only played two days, I felt like I hit the ball well enough to shoot a better score than I did."
Last week, Woods missed the cut by one shot at the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Championship in his first start of the year after being slapped with a two-stroke penalty for a rules infringement in the second round.
"That golf course was a little bit tricky so I must just keep doing what I'm doing," he said. "I had a couple of days at home to work on it, came out here and felt pretty good about it.
"I've had another year in the system of working with (swing coach) Sean (Foley). It's not something you can do overnight, make changes and all of a sudden it's great. From where I came from to where I'm at now, it's a big change."
Though Woods has lost much of the aura he enjoyed when he dominated the game from the late 1990s into the early 2000s, he is likely to intimidate his relatively inexperienced challengers at Torrey Pines because of his excellent track record here.
"There are certain golf courses where I've had some success on," he smiled. "This is one of them. Firestone, Augusta (National), Doral, Bay Hill, I've done pretty good at.
"So there are a few courses over the course of my career that I've really played well. This happens to be one of them, and we happen to have (had) a major on it, and I've won it."
Woods has gone on to win 34 times out of 44 when holding at least a share of the 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour, though he has triumphed only twice from that position in his last six attempts.
Asked to assess his overall comfort level heading into the final two rounds at Torrey Pines which will both be played over the tougher South course, he replied: "I feel good right now. I'm leading the tournament."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)