Sun, Oct 19, 2003 - Page 23 News List

`Smiling Assassin' surfaces during the Chrysler Classic

AP , GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA

With an ever-present smile, 1.7m Shigeki Maruyama doesn't look like much of a threat on the golf course. But he's not nicknamed the Smiling 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.

As Faxon walked up the 18th fairway, one fan yelled: "Let's go Yankees." Faxon broke into a wide grin.

But Maruyama was the main story on this 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.

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