Japan's Yokoo leads National tournament

Saturday, October 20, 2001

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Kaname Yokoo doesn't have a flashy smile or wear extravagant hats like some of the more popular Japanese stars. He'll settle for the 36-hole lead in the National Car Rental Classic.

Yokoo, a PGA Tour rookie who made it through qualifying school on his first try, made another breakthough Friday at Disney World with a 7-under 65 that gave him a one-stroke lead over Jerry Smith.

Yokoo was at 131. Keeping the lead will be far more difficult, especially with the low scores the Palm and Magnolia courses have yielded over the first two days. The cut was 139, the lowest in the 23 years of stroke play at Disney.

Still, Yokoo has been better than everyone else -- Davis Love III, David Toms, Vijay Singh and even Tiger Woods.

"If I can keep playing like I played today and yesterday, then I have a chance," Yokoo said through his interpreter. "I'm afraid to go to sleep. My swing might change."

The greater fear is glancing over his shoulder at the cast of characters behind him. Love made a birdie from the trees on the 18th hole for a 66 that left him two strokes back, along with Jose Coceres of Argentina.

Woods blistered a 360-yard drive on the 18th at Magnolia. Even though he had to settle for par, some tinkering with his swing Thursday evening showed signs of paying off, and a 67 left him only five strokes out of the lead.

"By Sunday, he might be caught up to me," Yokoo said of Woods.

Yokoo, who has won each of the past three years on the Japanese tour, secured his PGA Tour card for next year with a tie for sixth in the Texas Open three weeks ago, his best finish in America and his third top 10 of the year.

He will be paired today with Smith, a 37-year-old from Iowa who is 120th on the money list and is grinding to finish the year in the top 125 on the money list.

Coceres, who won the week after the Masters, had a 65 and was tied with Love at 133. Toms (68), Singh (68), David Peoples and Brian Wilson were another stroke back.

SBC Championship

SAN ANTONIO -- Gary McCord made six birdies in an eight-hole stretch en route to 9-under 63 and a two-stroke lead after the first round of the SBC Championship.

Bobby Wadkins opened with a 65, and Bruce Fleisher shot a 66. Defending champion Doug Tewell stood at 67, tied with Larry Nelson, Bruce Lietzke, Mike Smith and Bob Murphy.

-- From wire reports

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