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Sabbatini sails past Els for lead

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 14, 2001

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- A South African is in control of the Mercedes Championships, but not the player expected.

Rory Sabbatini holed a wedge for eagle on No. 16, part of a four-shot swing over two holes that enabled him to blow past Ernie Els on Saturday on the way to 8-under 65.

Vijay Singh was second, two strokes back, after 67. The Masters champ birdied the final four holes, including a 12-footer on No. 18 after hitting his approach against the bleachers.

"It was one of those days where everything seems to go your way," Sabbatini said of No. 16. "I wasn't trying to hole it. I just wanted to get it up there and give myself a chance."

Tiger Woods also gave himself a chance, but the defending champ missed eight putts inside 15 feet and was so frustrated he muttered to caddie Steve Williams at one point, "You think I should try crosshanded?" Despite that, Woods shot 68 and trailed by eight.

But the real frustration belonged to Els. Determined to start his season on a winning note, Els had the tournament under control until he collapsed on the par 5s on the back nine of the Plantation Course at Kapalua, twice taking penalty drops because of errant tee shots.

When he missed a 3-foot bogey putt on the final hole, Els had even-par 73 on a surprisingly calm day in which none of the 33 players in the winners-only field were over par.

While the harsh grain of Hawaiian greens requires lots of course knowledge, the 24-year-old Sabbatini is making the most of his first visit to Kapalua with his 16-under 203. Els was at 12-under 207.

Several players put themselves into position to make a run, including David Duval, who matched Sabbatini with 65 for the low round. Duval, the '99 Mercedes champion, was six back.

LPGA CLASSIC: Carin Koch, who clinched the Solheim Cup for the Europeans in 2000, took a one-stroke lead after the second round in Orlando. The Swede is in position for her first LPGA title in seven years on tour.

"It would be wonderful, it would be a lot of fun," she said after shooting 4-under 68 to finish at 7-under 137 at Grand Cypress Resort. "It would stop a lot of questions, especially in Europe."

Among those she must hold off is Solheim teammate Laura Davies, who shot 72 to finish one back. Se Ri Pak (68) was tied with three others at 5 under. Twelve others finished within five of the lead in the 2001 opener.

Karrie Webb, the two-time defending Player of the Year, shot 75 for 146, closer to the cut line (148) than the lead.

Davies said the five weeks she took off prior to the tournament may have led to her inconsistent second round. She birdied three holes and made bogey or worse on three others. On No. 13, she pulled a 7-iron into a lake and took double bogey, but she recovered with a birdie two holes later to get within one.

"I was swearing away, trust me," Davies said of the double bogey. "I mean, a 7-iron into the water? I can't remember the last time I did that. But I think it's positive to get angry about a shot like that and get over it."

PLAYER INJURED: Kim Williams, who was shot in the neck seven years ago, broke her collarbone and injured her right knee Friday in a car crash after her opening round of 72 at Grand Cypress.

Williams, 37, was driving alone when the driver of an oncoming car had a seizure and smashed into Williams. She had surgery at Orlando Regional Medical Center and was in stable condition.

In 1994 Williams was shot in the neck with a bullet fired into the air from more than a mile away during a tournament in Ohio. The bullet didn't cause major injury. She finished 10th at the Toledo Classic the following week.

TUCSON OPEN: Lee Porter took a two-stroke lead in the weather-delayed event in Arizona, shooting 7-under 65 in the second round at Tucson National.

Even making the cut was a departure for the 34-year-old veteran of the Japanese, European, Asian, South American, Canadian and tours who has finished in the money only 44 times in 123 previous PGA Tour events.

Porter, at 10-under 134, didn't leave much room for error, with 1996 U.S. Open champion Steve Jones and 1994 Tucson winner Andrew Magee at 136.

VICTORIAN OPEN: Scott Gardiner shot 2-under 70 for a one-stroke lead after the third round of the ANZ Tour event in Melbourne, Australia. David Gossett, the 1999 U.S. Amateur Champion, shot 72 for 207.

* * *

TODAY ON TV: Victorian Open (taped), 9 a.m., Golf Channel; LPGA Classic (taped), 5 p.m., ESPN; PGA, Tucson Open, 6, CNBC; PGA, Mercedes Championship, 8, ESPN.

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