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Golf

2 share lead; Woods' cut streak in danger

By Wire services
Published February 20, 2004

LOS ANGELES - PGA champion Shaun Micheel doesn't feel like a star, not with Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh in the Nissan Open, and certainly not in this star-crazed city.

As long as he plays like one, that's fine with him.

Micheel put some putting practice to good use Thursday, holing a 30-foot eagle putt and a couple of other long birdies for 7-under 64 at Riviera and a share of the first-round lead with Shigeki Maruyama.

"I don't know what it takes to be a star," Micheel said. "I don't know if I have that quality. I would like to become top 10 in the world at some point, be a more consistent player."

Micheel and Maruyama had a one-shot lead over Hank Kuehne, while the group at 66 included defending champion Mike Weir and former Nissan Open winners Fred Couples (1990, 1992), Kirk Triplett (2000) and Robert Allenby (2001).

Among 10 players who failed to finish before darkness, Russ Cochran was 4 under with two holes left.

Woods, meantime, continued to struggle at Riviera.

This is the only course on the PGA Tour he has played at least five times without winning, and Woods put himself in a hole with 1-over 72, the first time he has been over par in the first round of a regular PGA Tour event since last year at Riviera.

Woods will start the second round below the cut line, needing a good score today to extend his record streak of 116 consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour.

"My iron play was the most disappointing," Woods said. "I hit some really nice drives, but I couldn't hit my irons close enough to make any birdies."

Singh, whose streak of 12 top 10s ended last week at Torrey Pines when he missed the cut, didn't fare much better. Despite hitting 15 greens, he took 33 putts in a round of par 71.

It wasn't just Woods and Singh grabbing all the attention.

The loudest roars belonged to John Daly, a winner last weekend for the first time on U.S. soil in 10 years. Daly was 2 over at the turn, but he birdied the next three holes and the last two of his round for 68.

His only complaint came at the end, when players have to walk up a 50-foot hill to the clubhouse to sign their cards.

"I just wish they'd put an escalator from the 18th green to the clubhouse," Daly said. "I'm too fat to walk up this damn hill."

Micheel breezed his way around Riviera, and wound up in the lead for the first time since his 7-iron shot within 2 inches of the final hole at Oak Hill gave him a two-shot victory in the PGA Championship.

"You work hard out here to try to win tournaments and earn the respect of your peers, and then you realize you don't have to earn the respect of the players, but the fans and the media, and that's very difficult," Micheel said. "I think maybe I'm starting to get a handle on that."

Not that Micheel is complaining.

He takes his status as a major champion seriously, and works hard trying to meet whatever opportunities and obligations that comes his way.

What will it take to be a star?

"I don't know, maybe another PGA Championship," Micheel said. "I'm trying to get there."

NATIONWIDE TOUR: Australia's Anthony Painter made a 50-foot eagle putt on No.9 - his final hole - to take the lead at 6-under 65 after the first round of the Jacob's Creek Open in Adelaide, Australia. Americans Jeff Klauk and Vance Veazey and Australians Euan Walters, Nick O'Hern and Adam Groom opened with 66s.

EUROPEAN TOUR: South Africa's Martin Maritz, England's Jamie Elson and Australia's Terry Price shot 6-under 66s to share the first-round lead in the Malaysian Open in Shah Alam.

[Last modified February 20, 2004, 01:31:57]


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