Though the South African veteran has won more than 40 tournaments worldwide as a professional, he cannot recall being in the hunt for a title since he clinched his most recent victory on the PGA Tour, at the 2009 Transitions Championship.

"It's been such a long time since I've been in contention," Goosen, 46, told reporters after carding a one-under-par 70 in tough scoring conditions at Riviera Country Club where the iconic layout in the Santa Monica Canyon ran firm and fast.

"Who knows how my game is going to hold up, but I'm feeling good. My back's feeling great. If the nerves can hold and I just continue to make good golf swings and make a few good putts ... I'm excited to be up there again, fighting for the lead.

"I struggled, but I was fighting. I was working hard out there, keeping my score together and hopefully this weekend it's going to be the same. It's going to be a grind out there. It's not going to be easy going."

Asked when he was last in contention, Goosen replied: "Probably the last time I won, 2009. It's been a while since I've been in the lead and having a chance."

Goosen, a twice former U.S. Open champion who has been struggling for full fitness since having back surgery in Aug. 2012 to repair a damaged disc, ended the second round in style, draining a 30-foot birdie putt to post a six-under total of 136.

However, he conceded he was fortunate to birdie the hole, the par-four ninth, after hitting a poor sand wedge approach from the middle of the fairway to the back right portion of the uphill green.

"That was a pretty good bonus," smiled the softly spoken South African, who played with Fijian Vijay Singh for the first two days at Riviera. "I got a read from Vijay's putt. He was putting on the same line as mine.

"Wasn't a very good shot in there with a sand wedge ... but it's a tough hole there. Any time I birdie on that hole is good."

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