Woods shoots into lead with 66

Saturday, October 4, 2003

WOODSTOCK, Ga. -- Baked greens and thick rough were troubling enough Friday at the American Express Championship. Even more daunting was Tiger Woods pulling away from a world-class field without breaking a sweat.

In one of his best rounds of a roller-coaster year, Woods made seven birdies and finished with a 4-under 66 to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend at Capital City Club.

He not only had the best score of the day -- only four other players broke par -- Woods was eight strokes lower than the course average.

"It's awfully nice to be in front," said Woods, who was at 7-under 133.

He hasn't been in that position at any time during a tournament since going wire-to-wire at the Western Open in early July, which is also the last time he won.

Woods is 19-4 when having at least a share of the 36-hole lead.

The challenge falls to Rocco Mediate, Tim Herron, Sergio Garcia and K.J. Choi, who all gave up shots on the tough Crabapple course and were at 138.

Mediate made four bogeys over his first eight holes, answered with four straight birdies and then dropped a shot on the 18th for a 72. Herron also bogeyed the 18th for a 72.

Garcia, who opened with a bogey-free 65, saw his round fall apart by missing three straight par putts from inside 10 feet on the front nine. He finished with a 73.

"I just couldn't hole the putts today," Garcia said. "That was the biggest difference. Tiger was making them and I wasn't."

The other players under par were Stuart Appleby (68) and Ignacio Garrido (71), who were at 139. Vijay Singh had his second even-par 70 and was at 140.

Masters champion Mike Weir closed with eight straight pars, none of them easy, to finish with a 73 and was at 2-over 142.

He was eight strokes behind going into the weekend at Valderrama when he won the American Express Championship three years ago. This could be more difficult.

"When it's firm and fast, it's nearly impossible to shoot 6 or 7 under," Weir said. "To shoot 2 or 3 under with Tiger in the lead isn't going to gain much ground. You know he doesn't usually give them (shots) back."

The tournament turned on the 315-yard fifth hole, when Woods hit a 3-wood that landed short of the green and rolled up to 20 feet. He narrowly missed his eagle putt, but that sent him on his way as everyone else struggled.

He hit a soft 7-iron that floated down to about 15 feet for birdie on the par-3 sixth to take the lead at 5 under, hit a pitching wedge to 15 feet for another birdie on the eighth and made the turn in 31 with a 7-iron into 4 feet on the ninth.

PGA Tour

MADISON, Miss. -- John Huston shot his second straight 66 Friday and held a two-stroke lead after two rounds of the Southern Farm Bureau Classic.

Huston began the day in a three-way tie for the lead and ended it at 12-under 132 after two trips around the 7,199-yard course at Annandale Golf Club.

First-round co-leader Hidemichi Tanaka was second at 134. He started his round with a double bogey on No. 10, but rebounded with five birdies on the back nine for a 68.

Tim Clark and Chris Anderson matched Huston's low round of 66 and were tied for third at 135.

LPGA Tour

LINCOLN, Calif. -- Se Ri Pak shot an 8-under 64 and held a one-stroke lead over Sophie Gustafson after two rounds of the Longs Drugs Challenge.

Pak had one eagle and seven birdies in setting a tournament record with a 9-under 135 total at Lincoln Hills Club.

Gustafson had three birdies in a 2-under 70 that followed her opening 66.

Jamie Hullett (69), Suzann Pettersen (70), Wendy Ward (71) and Michelle Ellis (72) were tied for third at 139.

-- From wire reports

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