Sun, May 18, 2003 - Page 24 News List

Singh takes lead at Byron Nelson while he maintains focus

AP , IRVING, TEXAS

Vijay Singh is back to getting attention for his play on the golf course instead of his comments about Annika Sorenstam.

With his second straight 5-under 65 Friday, Singh took the second-round lead at the Byron Nelson Championship. He leads by one stroke over Tim Petrovic, who had a hole-in-one in his round of 66.

Singh created a stir after his runner-up finish last week in North Carolina by saying Sorenstam had no business playing in next week's Colonial and that he hoped she missed the cut. Before the Nelson, Singh said he was sorry if his comments came across as a personal attack and put a different spin on his words.

Since then, he has focused on playing.

"I'm very focused. I came here to win the golf tournament," Singh said Friday. "It's Byron's tournament, and I am just looking forward to playing. My mind is totally on this golf game, and that's it."

Scott Verplank had Friday's low-round, a bogey-free 63 on the par-70, 6,229m Cottonwood Valley course. He is tied at 132 with first-round leader Jeff Sluman, who followed his opening 63 at Cottonwood with a 69 that included two backside bogeys on the tougher 6,390m TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas.

Robert Gamez (66 at Cottonwood) and Kevin Sutherland (68 at TPC) were also at 8-under 132.

Windy conditions, with sustained winds of 32kph much of the day and gusts of 48kph or more, made for fewer low scores after 88 subpar rounds Thursday. Only 42 the 155 golfers broke par Friday.

"When it is blowing as hard as it was today and gusting like it was, it's pretty difficult. I don't hit that well every single day," said Verplank, who had only two birdie putts of more than 2m.

There were 80 players who made the cut at even-par 140. It is the third time in four years that at least 80 players made the weekend, when all rounds are played on the TPC layout.

Of nine former champions in the field, only Nick Price, Phil Mickelson and Robert Damron made the cut. Defending champ Shigeki Maruyama was 1-over 141.

Singh started his back nine at Cottonwood with his second bogey, hitting a wedge over the green at the 432m 10th. He then made four straight birdies, none of the putts longer than 3m, and had another one with a 3-foot putt on the 539m 16th.

"I was very patient out there. I knew the score isn't going to go that low like it did yesterday, so I just had to be around the leaders," Singh said. "I am surprised that I'm leading where I finished."

Since missing his only cut at The Players Championship, Singh has finished no lower than 11th in his last four tournaments. He tied for sixth at the Masters and was second at the Wachovia Championship last week, and is fifth on the money list with US$1.9 million.

Petrovic's hole-in-one came on the TPC's 181m 5th hole. He hit a 7-iron downwind straight into the cup, putting him 4-under for the day.

His only subpar hole after that was at the 452m 10th when he made a 6m birdie. He gave that stroke back at the 196m 17th when he missed the green and then a 4m putt after his pitch shot.

In between, he missed several birdie chances, including a makable 4m at 15 after recovering from a poor drive with a 3-wood from 240m that he said was "probably the best shot I hit all day, even better than the hole-in-one swing." After the putt slid by the edge of the cup, he flipped his putter in the air in frustration.

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