Saturday, May 27, 2000

Woods dazzles, moves into lead

Tiger shoots bogey-free 63

By Mike DeCourcy
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DUBLIN, Ohio — For all the birdies he made and all the gorgeous shots he struck and all his perfect putts, two of the uglier shots Tiger Woods put forth Friday afternoon led to the most dazzling moment of his day.

        And once again, Woods was smiling.

        He was nearly in agony when an awkward tee shot at the 16th hole found the back right bunker. He winced when a potentially ideal escape attempt took two bounces in the high grass around the green instead of the one he planned, causing the ball to stop short of the fringe. Then he grabbed a wedge, took a nice, gentle stroke and guided the ball into the hole for a par.

        With a momentum-busting bogey averted, Woods nailed approach shots that led to easy birdie putts at the 17th and 18th and ended the second round of the Memorial Tournament with a one-shot lead over Harrison Frazar. When Woods began his day, Frazar was eight shots ahead.

        “I've always been one of those players that can string shots together,” Woods said. “Once I get going, I tend to keep it going. And maybe that's because of how emotional I am when I play. I get fired up, and I enjoy it.”

        Before striking his first tee shot on his second day as reigning Memorial champion, Woods got a look at the weather forecast that promised thunderstorms for today

        and the leader board that suggested a low number was possible.

        Frazar had already posted a 69 that put him in the lead at 9-under par. A 64 by Ernie Els rescued him from an over-par start.

        “Obviously, I want to win,” Els said. “When you come out and play here and you play against a field like this, you think Top 10 is good. But in my situation right now, I've got to think about winning.”

        Woods set a relatively modest goal for himself upon processing everything that developed before his 1 p.m. tee time. With the PGA Tour and Memorial officials having determined the players would be grouped in threesomes and the tee times compressed to between 8:30 a.m. and 10:15a.m., he wanted to be in the final group.

        To get there, Woods figured he needed to shoot 5-under par. He was there with six holes to play, and kept going.

        “It was a good day to go out there and post a good number, because we don't know how many holes this tournament is going to be, whether it's going to be 54 or 72,” Woods said. “I just wanted to get there in the final group to know what's going on with the leaders, because there are not a whole lot of boards around here.”

        After two weeks of answering questions about the wisdom of switching from a wound Titleist ball to a multi-piece Nike ball at the height of his Tour dominance, Woods provided the definitive statement on the issue.

        His round of 63 was bogey-free and birdie-bur dened. He bettered par on four consecutive holes from No.5 to No.8, then did the same at Nos.12, 13, 15, 17 and 18.

        There remained a number of times, however, when his round could have collapsed. Most notable was the 16th, but his 3-wood second shot at the par-5 15th was “three-and-a-half inches fat.” The ball wound up in the grass to the left side of the green. That gave him the perfect angle for a chip that left him a birdie putt of less than two feet.


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