-- GAINESVILLE, Va. -- On the heels of a Throwback Thursday that saw Tiger Woods rally up the leaderboard at his own Quicken Loans National, the much-maligned tournament host went into full Flashback Friday mode with a 5-under 66 in the second round to match his best score of the year.
Just as in the opening round, Woods got off to a slow start, playing his opening five holes in 1 over before closing his first nine holes with a pair of birdies. On his second nine -- the front side at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club -- he collected four more birdies without a single blemish on the scorecard.
The 68-66 start marked the first time since the 2013 Deutsche Bank Championship that Woods posted two consecutive opening rounds of 68 or better.
It left him tied for fifth, three shots behind Ryo Ishikawa, who was even par for the day before he birdied the last three holes.
"I hit the ball really well today," said Woods, who found 10-of-14 fairways and 14-of-18 greens in regulation. "I was very pleased with that."
He was quick to point out, though, that the round could have been even better.
"I made a few putts, but also I missed a bunch, too," he said. "This could have been one of those really low rounds. But ... I'm in a good spot hitting the weekend."
Woods' struggles so far this year have been well chronicled. In eight previous starts, his best finish was a tie for 17th at the Masters with nothing else inside the top-30. He's also missed the cut in three tournaments, including two majors, and has posted three scores in the 80s.
All of which has made Woods' performance ripe for criticism throughout the year. He has long insisted he doesn't pay attention to such criticism and maintained following Friday's round that he won't use those comments as motivation.
"There's a lot of experts out there that think they really know a lot about the game," he said. "They've never been inside the ropes and never hit a shot. They really don't understand how this game is and especially at this level, and the longer you play you're going to have periods like this. Some guys' careers are 48, 50 years long. I don't think they all played well each and every year for 48, 50 years. This is my 20th year on Tour. I've had spells where I played great and other spells where I played awful. It's just the nature of our sport."
The host of this tournament since its inception in 2007, Woods, 39, is seeking his third career Quicken Loans victory and the 80th win of his PGA Tour career, which would place him just two behind all-time leader Sam Snead.
A win this week would do more than simply push him closer toward history, though.
Woods currently isn't qualified for next week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, an event he's won eight times during his career. He can only get into that field by virtue of a victory here.
Along the same lines, Woods also isn't qualified for the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs, but a victory would likewise accomplish that, as well.
Playing three groups behind Fowler, Ishikawa had made four birdies and four bogeys when he nearly made his second hole-in-one of the tournament, hitting a 9-iron to 2 inches on the short par-3 16th. He tapped in for birdie and followed with a 13-foot birdie putt on 17 and a 31-footer on 18.
"My goal for this weekend is like 15 under, 16 under," Ishikawa said. "So I'm just here focused on that number."
David Lingmerth, enjoying a breakout season thanks to his victory at the Memorial, made five birdies on his final nine holes for a 65. He was two shots back.
The cut was 2 under, and Billy Hurley III made it on the number. After his second-round 70, he was informed that his father, Willard Hurley Jr., had been located after disappearing for nearly two weeks.
Woods was part of a group of nine players at 8 under. They included Jimmy Walker, who followed an opening 71 with a 63, including a holed fairway bunker shot from 112 yards for eagle.
"I don't hit a lot of fairways anyway. It's not that big of a deal," Walker said. "Bunkers out here are nice. I hit some good shots."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.