Garcia holds two-stroke lead at Wachovia Championship

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Sergio Garcia posed over a 9-iron that never reached the green. Vijay Singh felt the wind change in the middle of his swing. Tiger Woods watched a birdie chance disappear off the green and into the water.

Blustery wind that swirled from all corners fooled some of the world's best players and turned the Wachovia Championship into a test of patience Friday in Charlotte N.C.

Garcia survived by playing bogey-free on the back nine for a 1-under 71, giving him a two-shot lead over Singh, defending champion Joey Sindelar and D.J. Trahan going into the weekend.

"You make bogey, you've just got to realize ... it's going to happen," Garcia said. "You've just got to try to keep it up. You try as hard as possible to have fun."

The biggest thrill was his position, at 7-under 137, his first 36-hole lead in nearly four years on the PGA Tour.

The wind calmed over the final two hours at Quail Hollow, and the scoring average dropped a half-shot to 74.6. The course was so fast that the field hit less than 50 percent of the fairways.

Jim Furyk was 4 over through his first eight holes and trying not to fret.

"The bad news is you gave away a lot of shots," Furyk said after recovering for a 72. "But it's a hard course, and I'm sure a lot of other guys did, too. The goods news is I'm only four shots back with 36 holes to play."

Masters runner-up Chris DiMarco, Greg Owen, and Trahan each posted a 67, the lowest round of a tough day, although all of them came in the afternoon when the wind died.

The cut was at 4 over, and there 15 players within five shots of the lead. That included Woods, who has made 11 birdies the first two rounds, but has sprinkled in enough bogeys to leave him with plenty of work to catch up.

"If he's here, he's trouble. It's as simple as that," Sindelar said. "Same way with Vijay, defined entirely differently. Tiger is explosive ... where Vijay is just relentless."

Phil Mickelson hit into the water on the par-3 17th and finished double bogey-bogey for a 73 that left him seven shots behind.

All of them are chasing Garcia, who has been hitting the ball pure over the first two days at Quail Hollow.

"If you're hitting the ball well and you're driving the ball well like I am, you're going to get some birdie chances," Garcia said. "If you manage to keep going on those tough holes and make pars, you're going to post a decent round that's not going to take you out of the tournament."

Singh and Scott Verplank each had a 69 in the toughest conditions. Verplank, Brett Quigley (69) and Richard Johnson (72) were at 4-under 140, while Owen, DiMarco, Furyk and Jeff Sluman (70) were among those at 141.

Woods, who had a share of the lead early in the second round, made three bogeys over his last seven holes for a 72 and was five shots out of the lead at 2-under 142.

"It was a frustrating finish," Woods said. "As well as I drove it all day, I didn't take advantage."

LPGA Tour

Annika Sorenstam's winning streak is on hold again.

Rain in Williamsburg, Va., wiped out the Michelob Ultra Open on Friday, and the second round will start anew this morning. The final 36 holes of the tournament will be played Sunday.

The storm could have been a huge break for Sorenstam. After shooting a 5-over 76 on Thursday, she's got work to do just to make the cut, let alone keep her quest for a record sixth straight victory alive. She's nine strokes behind first-round leaders Silvia Cavalleri and Catrin Nilsmark, and several off the projected cut line.

More than a half-inch of rain fell on the River Course at Kingsmill between 7 a.m. and noon, wreaking havoc with the scores of the morning groups. Only a few players were below par for the day when the round was wiped out.

European PGA Tour

England's Richard Finch shot a course-record 9-under 63 to take a one-stroke lead after the second round of the Italian Open in Milan, Italy.

Finch, the 2002 English Amateur champion, broke the Castello di Tolcinasco mark of 64 set last year by Mark Roe and Gregory Havret.

Finch had a 12-under 132 total. Wales' Bradley Dredge was 11 under, and England's Paul Broadhurst (65) and Havret (65) were 9 under.

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