Sat, Sep 15, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Clark leads rain-delayed Tour Championship

AFP , ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Tiger Woods hits from a green side bunker on the ninth hole during the first round of The Tour Championship golf tournament at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday.

PHOTO: AP

Tiger Woods continued his superb play in the inaugural FedEx Cup playoff series on Thursday by going four-under through 11 holes as the PGA Tour Championship was hit by a lengthy rain delay.

Officials halted play at 7pm because of darkness with just 10 of the 30-man field having completed the first round.

Woods trails clubhouse leader Tim Clark by four strokes but more importantly he didn't skip a beat during Thursday's rain delay and kept himself in contention for the FedEx Cup title in the fourth and final playoff event.

The 13-time major winner and world No 1 came out with plenty of fire, making birdie on the first three holes. He also birdied holes six and nine on the soggy East Lake Golf Club course.

"I made a couple of putts," Woods said. "I don't know how. I hit them up there and they bounced all over the place and somehow went in."

Clark fired a eight-under 62, grabbing the clubhouse lead by rolling in six birdies and an eagle on the 15th hole.

The 31-year-old South African played a limited schedule in the early part of the season due to a neck injury but had a strong finish which got him into this event.

He also had a share of the 36-hole lead at the Masters Tournament in April before finishing in 13th.

"I had a bit more confidence coming in here," Clark said. "I got the speed of the greens and was able to make some putts."

Ireland's Padraig Harrington is second in the clubhouse behind Clark, making birdie on his final four holes to move to seven-under 63.

Defending Tour Championship winner Adam Scott of Australia was four-under through 13 holes.

This year the Tour Championship is being used to determine the winner of the FedEx Cup playoffs which includes US$10 million in first-place deferred prize money.

The top 30 players in FedExCup points also secure a return trip to Atlanta next year to compete in the Masters Tournament.

Organizers sounded the horn to signal the delay at about 2:15pm after Woods, who teed off in the last group in the afternoon, had just hit his approach on the first hole.

The East Lake course was still dry when Woods headed off to the clubhouse about 30 minutes before the afternoon downpour struck.

That's when the sky turned dark only to be illuminated by the crackle of lightning.

Upon his return, after an over three-hour delay, Woods made the 3m birdie putt while Stricker, who is second in FedEx Cup standings, parred the hole.

Woods said the greens changed during the 185 minute delay that saw 1.3cm of rain soak into the ground.

"The conditions were soft and the greens were interesting," Woods said.

Clark said he spent the long delay catching up with friends on the tour.

"We just sat around and chatted," Clark said. "We only had a half hour to get ready once they told us to play."

Earlier in the week officials took the unusual step of cancelling the Pro-Am and restricting practice at the course because of a heatwave that left the greens parched.

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