THOUSAND OAKS, California Briton Graeme McDowell continued his love affair with Sherwood Country Club as he charged into a commanding three-shot lead after Friday's second round of the World Challenge.
Champion here in 2010 and runner-up in 2009, McDowell fired a superb six-under-par 66 in rain-softened conditions to take control of the elite 18-player event hosted by Tiger Woods.
The 33-year-old Northern Irishman made a fast start with three consecutive birdies on a receptive layout and finished with four more in the last nine holes to post a nine-under total of 135.
Jim Furyk, winner here in 2009, carded a 69 to sit three strokes off the pace with fellow Americans Bo Van Pelt 68) and Keegan Bradley (69).
Woods, the defending champion who has won the tournament a record five times, was a further shot back at five under after carding a five-birdie 69.
McDowell, however, took charge of the invitational event after starting the second round two strokes behind overnight leader Nick Watney.
He covered the front nine in two-under 34 with his only bogey coming at the par-four seventh, and picked up four more shots with a flawless display on the hillier homeward nine.
"I actually putted better today," McDowell, who has not won anywhere since his 2010 World Challenge victory, told reporters. "And it's nice to come to a golf course which has got some good memories for me."
He was well aware, though, that any of the closest challengers was capable of shooting a low score over the weekend on a receptive Sherwood softened by intermittent rain this week.
"I've got to keep my head down," McDowell said. "Going seven or eight under is not out of the question on this golf course. There's a lot of birdie chances out here."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)