Woods set off in hot pursuit of his fourth win of the US PGA Tour season with a superlative display at TPC Boston yesterday. It left him two behind leader Seung-Yul Noh (21) after the Korean posted a career-best 62, one shy of the course record.
Yet with world No 1 Rory McIlroy snapping at Tiger's heels after a classy 65, America is bracing itself for a holiday weekend to remember as golf's two megastars grapple for supremacy in the FedEx Cup play-offs.
Sadly, hopes that Padraig Harrington's release this week from his Ryder Cup burden might yield a birdie bonanza for the Dubliner went unfulfilled as he marked his 41st birthday with a tepid one-under-par 70 which owed more to hard graft than glitter.
Harrington showed his fighting spirit has not been diminished by the passing years as he landed two birdies in his final three holes.
The three-time Major champion needs at least to make the cut to copper-fasten his place in the 70-strong field for next week's BMW Championship in Indianapolis, the third leg of the PGA Tour's end-of-season play-off series.
The race for that whopping $10m FedEx Cup bonus climaxes in three weeks' time at the 30-man Tour Championship in East Lake, Atlanta.
While Woods and McIlroy rank high among the leading contenders for professional golf's biggest prize, Harrington must pick up his first win in four years on the US circuit to propel himself into the reckoning.
Graeme McDowell's prospects of ending his 21-month victory drought were not helped by the 74 which left the Portrush man close to the tail-end of the 100-man field.
Starting out this week at 33rd in the FedEx points table, McDowell's place at Indianapolis appears fairly safe, though his wayward hitting from tee to green, a card-blighting treble-bogey seven at 12 and three three-putts were worrying.
His failure to build on two opening birdies yesterday offered further evidence of his brittle form.
McIlroy's putting touch deserted him on the controversial 'brown' greens at Bethpage but the putter was red hot yesterday -- once he'd recovered from a dodgy start which included a bogey after overflying the first green and a lacklustre par five at two.
The Holywood star clicked into top gear after landing a 10-foot birdie putt at four. McIlroy then stirred memories of his recent US PGA victory as he picked up three shots in succession on his way to the turn, particularly the 196-yards long-iron he hit to inches at nine.
Another couple of birdies followed on 11 and 18 as McIlroy moved menacingly into the top six.
Tiger loped into the spotlight with his second-lowest round of the year, yesterday's stirring effort eclipsed only by the 62 he shot in his fruitless pursuit of McIlroy on Sunday at the Honda Classic in March.
"I hit a lot of good shots today and, on top of that, I putted well at the same time," said Woods. "It was a nice little combination."
Woods frittered away his 36-hole lead at the US Open and PGA Championship and performed poorly on Saturday and Sunday at Bethpage, so it'll be interesting to see if he can maintain his momentum today -- especially after he dropped a shot on nine, his final hole, where he missed the green with his approach and then two-putted from 13 feet.
Woods picked up two shots in his first seven holes. He then birdied the 18th, starting that glittering string of six consecutive birdies, just one shy of his personal Tour record.
It was a solid ball-striking day for Woods, who hit 16 of 18 greens and 10 of 14 fairways. "I hit the ball well enough to probably shoot maybe one or two more," he said.
"I missed a couple of little putts out there but I made my share from outside of 15, 20 feet as well. It was just a nice, solid round."
Deutsche Bank Championship,
Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.0