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Surprises coming from all over

Katayama a co-leader? O'Meara shoots 63? Woods just makes the cut? Mickelson at the top? Oh, wait, that one is normal in a major.

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 18, 2001


DULUTH, Ga. -- The funky hat is his trademark, and since Shingo Katayama plays almost all of his golf on the Japanese PGA Tour, Phil Mickelson could be excused if he knew nothing else about the second-round co-leader of the PGA Championship.

Well, there's this: Katayama has a sense of humor. After being told Mickelson knew no more about him than his cowboy hat, Katayama was asked what he knew about Mickelson: "He's left-handed," Katayama said through an interpreter.

Too bad he didn't say: "Best player never to have won a major championship."

That label will hover Mickelson like the Georgia heat until he breaks through to win one of golf's four biggest tournaments. And yet, the second-ranked player in the world has given himself another opportunity.

Mickelson's second straight 6-under-par 66 on Friday at the Atlanta Athletic Club put him one shot behind surprise leader Katayama and David Toms through 36 holes..

For the third time in four majors this year, Mickelson went into the weekend with a shot at victory.

"My mind-set is not to win the golf tournament, but to pull myself away from the field and that's the goal," he said. "It's my intention to separate myself, give myself a comfort zone and push myself to win, but not just by one or two, but maybe a few more."

Perhaps a 0-for-33 history as a pro in majors has Mickelson thinking that way, or the 13 top-10 finishes, including two this year. But it won't be easy for Mickelson to break from the pack, not with so many in hot pursuit.

Katayama, third on the Japanese PGA Tour money list with two wins this season, tied the 36-hole PGA Championship scoring record at 9-under 131. "I would like to take a picture of the leaderboard," said Katayama, who shot 64.

Toms, a five-time PGA Tour winner, matched him later in the day with 65. There were 23 players within six shots.

Mickelson was a shot back, tied with Bob Estes (65). British Open champion David Duval (68) was tied for fifth at 134, three back, along with Jim Furyk (64), Dudley Hart (68), Ernie Els (67), Steve Lowery (67) and K.J. Choi (68).

Clearwater's John Huston (68) and Bradenton's Paul Azinger (67) were tied for 11th, four back, along with Mark O'Meara, who tied PGA Championship and major records with 63.

First-round leader Grant Waite shot 74 and dropped into a tie for 26th.

And Tiger Woods will be around for the weekend. Most of the day it appeared he wouldn't. He struggled, but managed to shoot 3-under 67 to get to par. There were 76 players who made the cut of 1-over 141.

"Low rounds can be had out there," Woods said. "Hopefully I can do it in the morning. I'll be one of the first ones off and hopefully I can take advantage of that."

Who would have thought Woods would be nine shots behind Katayama, 28, a native of Ibaraki, Japan, who has been a pro since 1995 and is playing in his second PGA Championship? He has nine victories in Japan, and is 47th in the world ranking.

He didn't figure to be a factor here, however, not with a 7,213-yard, par-70 course and a bag full of woods. "There are not too many players who have five woods in their bag," said Katayama, who carries a driver, 3-, 4-, 7- and 9-wood. "I am not a long hitter."

And yet, Katayama is averaging a not-too-shabby 288.3 yards off the tee. Of course, that's 25 yards behind Mickelson's 313.

Mickelson, 31, has two victories this year and has finished in the top three on nine occasions. But he couldn't convert at the Masters, where a final-round 70 left him three shots behind Woods. And he had another chance at the U.S. Open, where a final-round 75 pushed him back to a tie for seventh.

He has 19 career PGA Tour victories, but only four other players claim that many titles without a major.

"I think in the end, he's just going to have to cope with that tag and overcome it," said Azinger, who won the PGA in 1993. "And until you've pulled it off, you don't know for sure if you'll ever be able to."

Mickelson believes he can -- sort of.

"Having been here, I know what to expect," he said. "I feel comfortable in this situation, being here a number of times now, and I feel as though that will be an advantageous situation.

"However, having not won one, there could be doubts that creep in. That's something I'm overcoming, not letting them creep in."

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