That $500,000 bonus for winning the West Coast Swing is an afterthought for Davis Love III, who suddenly has a better prize in mind.
Love, who went 34 months without winning and now can't seem to do anything wrong, had a 4-under 67 at soggy Riviera Country Club on Friday to share the lead with Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain after two rounds of the Nissan Open.
"Winning at Riviera is the focal point," said Love, who was at 7-under 135.
Jimenez, part of the European invasion on the PGA Tour this year, was leading by two strokes late in the afternoon until bogeys on the par 3s dropped him back to tie for the lead. He wound up with a 66.
"I have as good of a chance as Davis Love," Jimenez said. Then he held his thumb and forefinger inches apart and said, "And I have a little bit better chance than those at 6 under."
Widen his fingers ever so slightly, and there was Tiger Woods.
Woods briefly flirted with missing the cut until starting his back nine with back-to-back birdies, then shot himself into contention with an 8-foot eagle putt on the 17th. He had a 68 and was at 139, just four strokes out of the lead heading into today's third round (3 p.m., Ch. 4).
"Hopefully, I can get it going," said Woods, who hit only 10 greens. "The greens I do hit, it's not close enough to make the putts."
Love is playing the kind of golf everyone expected out of Woods, and he has temporarily replaced Woods as the hottest player on tour. In his last three tournaments, Love won at Pebble Beach with a final-round 63 (breaking Woods' record), lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines and finds himself in great position going into the weekend once again. He's even starting to sound like Woods.
"I was playing good golf, now I'm playing pretty good golf," Love said. "I'm not playing great golf. I'm not playing perfect, but I am playing determined and confident. There are times when I've hit it better, been more 'on' when I've won. I'm still leaving a few strokes out there."
No one left more strokes out on Riviera than Kirk Triplett. The defending champion was one of four leaders after the first round at 5 under, made four birdies on Friday and still missed the cut. He also had three double bogeys in his round of 81.
In fact, none of the other leaders were much better.
Brent Schwarzrock, the 13th alternate who got in when 15 others withdrew, had a 75. Sergio Garcia had a 72 and was at 4-under 138. The only one who held his own was Tom Scherrer, and he had to birdie two of the last three holes for a 71 that left him at 137.
Love was at a slight disadvantage teeing off so early on Friday. Rain overnight soaked the course, and it was still raining as Love warmed up and played his first two holes. A strong, swirling breeze shooed away the clouds, but made the course play tough early on.
For example, Love hit driver and a 1-iron on the 503-yard opening hole, just short of the green. On Thursday, he reached the par 5 with a 3-wood and a 6-iron.
But as it warmed up, so did Love. He picked up a stroke on the field with a 3-iron into 4 feet on the 236-yard fourth hole, and briefly pulled away from the field with four birdies on a five-hole stretch starting on the back nine.
His momentum finally shut down when he hit into the left bunker on the par-3 16th and failed to save par.
Jimenez started in the afternoon when the breeze died, and he picked up momentum quickly. After an eagle on the opening hole, the Spaniard holed a par putt from about 15 feet off the fringe on No. 2 and then birdied the third.
"The hole was moving away," Jimenez said in describing his struggles on the bumpy greens of Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines. "When the hole is moving, it's very difficult. Today, the putter was working pretty good."
Love wasn't even going to play this week until deciding to protect his position in the West Coast Swing standings, a bonus program that awards points based on how a player finishes in the first eight tournaments of the year.
Love is in a three-way tie for the Swing lead. The only one who had a decent chance of catching him was Phil Mickelson, who shot a 74 and missed the cut at 5-over 147.
Dougherty, Eastwood tied
PUEBLA, Mexico -- Ed Dougherty, fighting a cold, shot a 7-under 65 for a share of the first-round lead with Bob Eastwood in the Mexico Senior Classic.
"I'm surprised to be here because of how I feel," Dougherty said in the interview room. "I really hit the ball well. It was just exploding off the club face."
Dougherty eagled the par-5 10th hole after hitting a 5-wood approach to 5 feet.
South Africa's Hugh Baiocchi was a stroke back along with Bobby Walzel, Dick Lotz, Walter Hall and Mike McCullough.