Maruyama gets more reasons to smile at Greensboro

Saturday, October 18, 2003

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- With an ever-present smile and a 5-foot-7 frame, Shigeki Maruyama doesn't look like much of a threat on the golf course.

But he's not nicknamed the Smilin' Assassin for nothing.

The diminutive Maruyama reeled off nine birdies en route to an 8-under 64 Friday and a commanding lead after two rounds of the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro.

Maruyama, who is at 15-under 129, leads at the halfway point by five shots over Brad Faxon, who lost in a playoff here in 1997.

Maruyama laughed when asked about his nickname.

"I'm not as dangerous as an assassin," he said with a smile.

Faxon, wearing a Boston Red Sox cap, shot his second straight 67 at Forest Oaks Country Club.

Maruyama was the main story on the day.

"Five shots is a big lead on any course after two days," Faxon said. "I love the guy. I think he's good for golf and he's sure on."

Maruyama began his round with three pars before going on a birdie binge to pull away from the rest of the leaders. After four birdies in a row in the middle of his front nine, the Japanese golfer added five more in his last nine holes for his 12th straight sub-70 round.

Maruyama, who is winless this season after victories on the PGA Tour in 2001 and 2002, closed his round by hitting a wedge within two feet of the hole for a birdie.

Champions Tour

SAN ANTONIO -- Jim Thorpe shot a 6-under-par 65 Friday to take a one stroke lead over Bruce Fleisher and Bob Gilder in the opening round of the SBC Championship at Oak Hills Country Club.

Arnold Palmer, playing in San Antonio for the first time since 1986, shot a 2-over-par 73, one stroke less than his age.

Thorpe, ranked fifth on the Champions Tour, had six birdies and one eagle on the par-71, 6,661-yard course.

Lanny Wadkins, Fuzzy Zoeller, Craig Stadler and Hale Irwin were tied at 4-under-par 67.

-- From wire reports

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