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Lehman emerges from fog with lead
SAN DIEGO -- Soupy fog made it impossible to see the ball. And the way Tom Lehman is playing at the Buick Invitational, it might be hard for the rest of the field to find him.
Lehman made two straight birdies to regain the lead, then returned from a three-hour fog delay to close out his second round with two more birdies for a 5-under 67 on the South course at Torrey Pines, matching the 36-hole record and giving him the lead going into the weekend.
Just how big that lead is remains to be seen.
Lehman was at 15-under 129, tying the record set by Lennie Clements in 1996.
Peter Lonard of Australia was at 12 under par and playing his final hole on the par-5 ninth hole on the North course when the second round was suspended by darkness.
Tiger Woods also shot himself into contention, making three birdies in four holes after the fog delay. He was at 11 under on the North course, and still had the reachable par-5 18th to play.
They were among 59 players who had to return at 7:30 a.m. Saturday to complete the second round.
Lehman is gaining confidence with every day, and every shot.
The Ryder Cup captain easily handled the difficult South course, site of the 2008 U.S. Open, by finishing his round with four straight birdies. He closed with six straight birdies on the North course Thursday.
"I felt the fog delay actually worked in my favor," Lehman said. "I was struggling a bit with my swing, and I went to the range and hit balls for an hour and a half, and felt like I got my rhythm back."
He can only hope for a different outcome than when Clements set the 36-hole record nine years ago. Clements shot 72-71 on the weekend and finished third.
Lehman, too, has struggled to close out tournaments. He has not won since the 2000 Phoenix Open, and ended last year by playing in the final group in three straight tournaments, failing to win.
"I think your good golf comes when you're not thinking about the results," Lehman said. "You're just thinking about executing. I think I made 19 birdies in 36 holes. That's without question a personal best for me."
But he looks stronger than ever, and really showed his stuff to anyone who could see in the fog.
He got up-and-down from the bunker on the par-5 sixth, then made a 10-footer for birdie on the seventh and was cruising along on what appeared to be another brilliant day along the cliffs over the Pacific Ocean.
The fog came out of nowhere.
"I was on the 12th tee when they blew the horn," Chris Smith said. "Thirty seconds later, I couldn't see the green."
Fog quickly engulfed Torrey Pines, with the visibility down to about 150 yards. The second round was suspended more than three hours, and most players figured they were done for the day.
Mark Calcavecchia sure was. He was at 6 over, with no chance to make the cut, and stuck on his final hole when he decided to withdraw. Ditto for David Duval, who was 10 over with five holes to play, stuck around for a few hours then decided to head home to Denver.
Six players withdrew, and only 91 players finished the second round.
Kevin Sutherland got the worst end of the fog delay. He was on the 18th tee on the North course, first to hit, when he realized he didn't have a tee in his pocket. By the time he went to his bag to get a tee, set up his ball and aligned himself for his tee shot, the siren sounded to suspended play.
The rules don't allow a player to finish a hole in that situation unless at least one player in the group had hit his tee shot. Sutherland had to wait three hours, then returned to make birdie on the par-5 18th with a two-putt from the fringe. He shot 66 and was at 10-under 134, along with Dudley Hart (69).
Luke Donald, who lost in a three-way playoff last year, had a 67 and was at 9-under 135.
Ernie Els was on par-3 16th on the South course when the fog suspended play. He had a 4-iron in his hand, but when he returned, the moist conditions forced him to use a 2-iron. He went into the bunker, made bogey, and had to hit a beautiful wedge that checked up next to the cup for a tap-in birdie on No. 18 for a 71.
Els, playing at Torrey Pines for the first time since he was 14, was in a large group at 8-under 136.
"When I was good, I was very good," Els said. "But when I was good, I didn't make all the putts. And when I was bad, I made bogeys. I've got to be reasonably happy with 71."
Woods can't complain.
Tiger Woods started strong with a pair of 2-foot birdies, followed by an 8-foot birdie at No. 3 on the North to get into the fray. After the fog delay, he birdied the par-5 14th, then added two more birdies to get within four shots of Lehman with a par 5 to play Saturday morning.
Phil Mickelson had a 67 on the North and was 10 shots behind in his 2005 debut.
Vijay Singh, the No. 1 player in the world, struggled with his tee shots and putting, and he hovered around the cut line most of the day until two late birdies gave him a 69. He finished at 4-under 140, 11 shots behind.
Tom Watson shot a bogey-free 8-under-par 64 Friday to take a two-stroke lead in the MasterCard Championship.
Altering his putting stroke after arriving at Hualalai Golf Club in Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii, Watson converted eight birdies and didn't have a 5 on his scorecard in jumping ahead of Wayne Levi in the season-opening event on the Champions Tour.
Vicente Fernandez, who took two months off to allow a torn tendon in his left ring finger to heal, chipped in twice for birdie to lead a large group at 5-under 67. Also at 67 were 2004 player of the year Craig Stadler, Dana Quigley, Morris Hatalsky, and John Jacobs.