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Howell leads by one in a day of surprises

©Associated Press

February 22, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- Tiger Woods took a mighty swing and hit the ball about 6 inches. Nick Price finished his round by chipping in from 90 feet, which topped the 60-foot chip he made earlier. David Duval rolled one in from 80 feet off the green.

The second round of the Nissan Open was full of surprises Friday, the biggest belonging to Charles Howell III.

He was in the lead.

Howell finished with back-to-back birdies for 6-under 65, giving him a one-stroke lead over Price going into the weekend at Riviera Country Club.

That Howell had the best score, 8-under 134, over two days at tough Riviera was not unusual. He has a ton of talent and pounds the ball so far that he had only a sand wedge left for his approach into the historic, 451-yard 18th hole at Riviera.

Howell just had no idea what was going on around him.

"I don't pay attention to leaderboards," he said. "I don't think anything good comes out of that."

Imagine his surprise when he walked up to the 18th green and saw the large white scoreboard with his name at the top.

The next chore is staying there.

Price turned two long chip-ins for birdies into a 4-under 67 and was at 135, one stroke ahead of defending champion Len Mattiace (67).

PGA champion Rich Beem had 65 and was at 4-under 138, followed by a large group that included Duval and free-falling Fred Funk.

Howell was rookie of the year in 2001 and won his first PGA Tour event last year. Still, he conceded he needs to win a tournament with Woods in the field to feel as though he has earned his keep.

He was six strokes clear, a margin that might have been smaller except for one bad drive and one bad break that changed everything for Woods.

He nearly whiffed a shot out of thick rough on No. 7, leading to double bogey, and he finished with bogey when his drive hung on the steep slope of a bunker. Woods still had 68 and was only six strokes behind.

"One bad swing cost me a couple of shots," said Woods, who was at 2-under 140. "Overall, I'm pleased with the way I played today -- real solid."

Funk, who had a three-stroke lead to the start the second round, was at 8 under through 11 until a horrid stretch -- three bogeys, followed by double bogey at No. 15. He wound up with 74 and was in a large group at 3-under 139 that included Duval.

All will be chasing Howell, whom Price called "pound for pound, the longest hitter of the ball." Price might be right, considering Howell is no more than 150 pounds, even wearing his clothes suited for Monday night at the bowling alley.

ANZ LADIES MASTERS: Karrie Webb completed a round of 6-under par 66 to take a one-stroke lead over Laura Davies after the second round in Gold Coast, Australia.

FALDO WITHDRAWS: Nick Faldo, who qualified for the Match Play Championship with a runner-up finish to Ernie Els two weeks ago in Australia, withdrew from the $6-million tournament because of the flu. Phil Tataurangi of New Zealand, No. 66 in the world ranking, will replace Faldo in the field and play Tiger Woods in the opening round Wednesday at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, Calif.

MALAYSIAN OPEN: Retief Goosen shot 7-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead before play in the second round of the $1.1-million European PGA/Asian PGA Tour event in Kuala Lumpur was suspended by rain. South Korean Ted Oh shot 67 and was second.

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