Robert Garrigus, the second-round leader by two strokes over South Africa's Jbe Kruger, has upped the ante. With back-to-back rounds of 64 and a 14-under total of 128, he's looking to go 10 strokes beyond Woods' projection to win the tournament.
"I'm going to try to get to 30 if I can," he said, explaining that in his first tournament of the year he was 6 over after eight holes and played the next 54 at 32-under par. "So I can do it. I just need to do it on the weekend when it counts.
"I feel like if I'm putting well, no disrespect to anybody on the PGA Tour, they're all great players, but I feel like I can beat anybody in the world."
Garrigus' 128 is his lowest ever 36-hole total in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event, improving on the 130 he had when he finished second this year in the Canadian Open. The American has one tour title, in 2010, but has six runner-up finishes — including three this season. A win Sunday won't officially count on the PGA Tour, but the CIMB Classic is being added to the tour schedule for next year.
There's no reason he can't beat Woods, who was upstaged by playing partner Kruger on Friday at The Mines.
Playing his first competitive round with Woods, Kruger pumped his right arm after each of his eight birdies in a round that contained only one bogey despite the soggy conditions. He had 64 in his second round and was 12 under, two shots clear of Australia's Greg Chalmers (69) and overnight leader Troy Matteson, who followed his opening 63 with 69.
Woods had a 67 and was tied for fifth at 9 under with Kevin Na (66) and Zimbabwe's Brendon De Jonge (65).
The 14-time major winner rarely betrays his emotions on the course. After chipping in from off the green for a birdie at the seventh, he raised his club in the air and smiled for the first time in his second round. He even thanked a woman in the big crowd after she loudly commended his birdie at the fifth. But when he left a par putt just short, he glared at the ball as it rolled past the edge of the cup and shook his head.
Both bogeys in Woods' round followed wayward tee shots. At the fourth he sliced right and landed near four parked vans and a row of public toilets, then hit his second shot into a muddy bank near the left front of the green. He had a tough lie where it sloped down to a lake, and asked for a rules official to examine it before chipping on in a spray of dirt.
At the 12th, he hit into a thick, grassy bank on the right of the fairway, got on to the green in three and stared blankly as his par putt shaved the outside of the cup.
In between was a classic chip from off the green at the seventh that made him smile for the first time in his round.
"That was nice. It looked like I was going to go the other way," he said. "I jerked a nine iron over to the left — you shouldn't miss a green with a nine iron that bad — but I hit a really good shot and it trickled in like a putt."
He said he left a few birdies on the course because he wasn't hitting his irons into the right spots, leaving him with tough downhill, across-the-green putts.
Woods is confident he can convert those near misses into birdies on the weekend. He won the individual and team titles at the 1999 World Cup on his last visit here.
"The golf course can be had, especially if we have ball in hand like we did today," he said.
"It's wet. It's a little bit muddy ... (but) it can be had out there. I just have to get after it tomorrow, where at least I have a chance going into Sunday."
It was hot and humid for the second consecutive day and, with the course still damp after a heavy tropical storm the previous evening, the PGA Tour allowed preferred lies so that players could lift, clean and place muddy balls in the closely mown areas through the green.
Woods' group is one shot ahead of three Americans at 7 under, including 2010 champion Ben Crane, 2011 runner-up Jeff Overton and Brian Harman.
South Africa's Trevor Immelman had the low round of the day with a 63 to move into a share of 11th place with defending champion Bo Van Pelt. Nick Watney improved by six strokes in his second round by firing a 65 to move to 6 under, but Justin Dufner was 2 over in his second round, 12 strokes behind.
Kruger slipped up only once, at the 12th, and took no chances on the 18th when he decided to putt from off the green instead of using his pitching wedge to have a better shot at a par.
He had a double-bogey on 18 in the first round, his only blemish of that day.
"I think playing with (Woods) definitely made me concentrate a bit harder," Kruger said. "That is one thing I've been lacking the last couple of months, so I think I want to play with him every day!"
Garrigus started the day in second spot at 7 under and got as low as 15 under before leaving his par putt just short on the 18th hole for his only bogey of the round.
He had a run of four consecutive birdies from the seventh hole and added another four from the 12th to the 17th holes.
"If I keep putting like this on the weekend, it's going to be hard to catch me," he said. "I do have a very high confidence level right now ... and I feel like I can beat anybody, doesn't matter who I'm playing."
Even if that means No. 1-ranked Rory McIlroy, No. 2 Woods or Phil Mickelson.
"I finished fourth (at the BMW Championship), and it was Rory, Phil, Tiger, and they were all right next to me," he said. "I was staring them down. That's a good feeling."