tampabay.com

Garcia steers way through wind

By wire services
Published May 7, 2005


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Sergio Garcia posed over a 9-iron that never reached the green. Vijay Singh felt the wind change in the middle of his swing. Tiger Woods watched a birdie chance disappear off the green and into the water.

Blustery wind that swirled from all corners fooled some of the world's best golfers Friday and turned the Wachovia Championship into a test of patience.

Garcia survived by playing bogey-free on the back nine for 1-under 71, giving him a two-shot lead over Singh, defending champion Joey Sindelar and D.J. Trahan.

"You make bogey, you've just got to realize ... it's going to happen," said Garcia, who led by two Thursday. "You've just got to try to keep it up. You try as hard as possible to have fun."

The biggest thrill was his position: at 7-under 137, he held his first 36-hole lead in nearly four years on the PGA Tour.

The wind calmed over the final two hours at Quail Hollow, and the scoring average dropped half a shot to 74.6. The course was so fast that the field hit fewer than 50 percent of the fairways.

Jim Furyk was 4 over through eight holes and trying not to fret.

"The bad news is you gave away a lot of shots," Furyk said after recovering for 72. "But it's a hard course, and I'm sure a lot of other guys did, too. The good news is I'm only four shots back with 36 holes to play."

Masters runnerup Chris DiMarco, Greg Owen and Trahan each had 67, the lowest round of a tough day, though all of them came in the afternoon when the wind died.

The cut was at 4 over, and 15 players were within five shots of the lead. That included Woods, who made 11 birdies the first two rounds, but sprinkled in enough bogeys to leave him with plenty of work to catch up.

"If he's here, he's trouble. It's as simple as that," Sindelar said. "Same way with Vijay, defined entirely differently. Tiger is explosive ... where Vijay is just relentless."

Phil Mickelson hit into the water on the par-3 17th and finished double-bogey-bogey for 73, leaving him seven shots behind.

Singh and Scott Verplank each had 69 in the toughest conditions. Verplank, Brett Quigley (69) and Richard Johnson (72) were at 4-under 140, and Owen, DiMarco, Furyk and Jeff Sluman (70) were among those at 141.

Woods, who had a share of the lead early in the round, made three bogeys over his last seven holes for 72 and was five shots out of the lead at 142.

"It was a frustrating finish," Woods said. "As well as I drove it all day, I didn't take advantage."

Woods started with a short birdie putt, nearly making an ace on the par-3 second and rolling in a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 4 that he barely tapped. But it fell apart quickly with a 2-iron that came up well short on the 262-yard sixth, a par 3, a three-putt for par on the seventh and a drive that landed in the pine straw, between two rocks, that led to bogey on the ninth.

Some good shots turned out poorly, too.

At 4 under par, he hit a sand wedge behind the hole on the 14th, only to see it spin by the cup toward the edge of the green then down the slope and into the water.

"I hit a good shot," he said. "That's the thing that's funny. It landed right of the hole and ended up in the water."

Garcia had plenty of those.

His 7-iron into the third hole came up 15 yards short of the green, though he saved par.

LPGA: Rain wiped out the second round of the Michelob Ultra Open in Williamsburg, Va., setting up a 36-hole day on Sunday.

More than half an inch of rain fell on the River Course at Kingsmill between 7 a.m. and noon, wreaking havoc with the scores of the morning groups. No one played more than 12 holes, and later all scores were wiped out. The second round is scheduled to start from scratch today.

"We just didn't feel like it was going to be fair," said Jim Haley, an LPGA rules official. "Some players that didn't tee off yet were going to come (today) and play in sunshine while half the field is playing in this muck."

EUROPEAN PGA: Richard Finch set a course record at 9-under 63 to take the lead after the second round of the Italian Open in Milan. The Englishman broke the mark of 64, set by Mark Roe and Gregory Havret last year. Finch was at 132 and led Bradley Dredge by one stroke. The first-round co-leaders didn't fare well: Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano shot 73 after opening with 66, and Francois Delamontagne slipped to 77.

ASIAN TOUR: Andrew Buckle shot 4-under-par 68 in the cold and rain to take a two-stroke lead through two rounds of the SK Telecom Open in Seoul, South Korea.

FUTURES TOUR: Jenny Gleason of Clearwater and Kelly Lagedrost of Brooksville both shot 74 in the first round of the Lawrence (Kan.) Golf Classic. They were tied for 37th. Seul Ki Kim shot 4-under 68 for a two-stroke lead over three players.