Lehman emerges from fog in the lead

PGA TOUR: In the Buick Invitational, Tom Lehman was at 15-under 129, tying the record set by Lennie Clements in 1996. Peter Lonard of Australia was at 12 under par

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Sun, Jan 23, 2005 - Page 23

US Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman returned from a three-hour fog delay and shot 5-under 67 at the Buick Invitational on Friday to lead after two rounds and match the 36-hole record.

How big that lead was remained to be seen.

Lehman was at 15-under 129, tying the record set by Lennie Clements in 1996.

Peter Lonard of Australia was at 12 under par and playing his final hole on the par-5 ninth hole on the North course at Torrey Pines when the second round was suspended by darkness.

Tiger Woods also shot himself into contention, making three birdies in four holes after the fog delay. He was at 11 under on the North course, facing the reachable par-5 18th.

They were among 59 players who had to return at 7:30am Saturday to complete the second round.

Lehman easily handled the difficult South course, site of the 2008 US Open, by finishing his round with four straight birdies. He closed with six straight birdies on the North course on Thursday.

"I felt the fog delay actually worked in my favor," Lehman said. "I was struggling a bit with my swing, and I went to the range and hit balls for an hour and a half, and felt like I got my rhythm back."

However, Lehman has struggled to close out tournaments, and not won since the 2000 Phoenix Open. He ended last year by playing in the final group in three straight tournaments, failing to win.

"I think your good golf comes when you're not thinking about the results," Lehman said. "You're just thinking about executing. I think I made 19 birdies in 36 holes. That's without question a personal best for me."

But he looks stronger than ever, and really showed his stuff to anyone who could see in the fog.

He got up-and-down from the bunker on the par-5 sixth, then made a 3m putt for birdie on the seventh and was cruising along on what appeared to be another brilliant day along the cliffs over the Pacific Ocean.

The fog came out of nowhere.

"I was on the 12th tee when they blew the horn," Chris Smith said. "Thirty seconds later, I couldn't see the green."

Fog quickly engulfed Torrey Pines, with the visibility down to about 150m. The second round was suspended more than three hours, and most players figured they were done for the day.

Mark Calcavecchia sure was. He was at 6 over, with no chance to make the cut, and stuck on his final hole when he decided to withdraw. Ditto for David Duval, who was 10 over with five holes to play, stuck around for a few hours then decided to head home to Denver.

Six players withdrew, and only 91 players finished the second round.

Kevin Sutherland got the worst end of the fog delay. He was on the 18th tee on the North course, first to hit, when he realized he didn't have a tee in his pocket. By the time he went to his bag to get a tee, set up his ball and aligned himself for his tee shot, the siren sounded to suspended play.

The rules don't allow a player to finish a hole in that situation unless at least one player in the group had hit his tee shot. Sutherland had to wait three hours, then returned to make birdie on the par-5 18th with a two-putt from the fringe. He shot 66 and was at 10-under 134, along with Dudley Hart (69).

Luke Donald, who lost in a three-way playoff last year, had a 67 and was at 9-under 135.

Ernie Els was on par-3 16th on the South course when the fog suspended play. He had a 4-iron in his hand, but when he returned, the moist conditions forced him to use a 2-iron. He went into the bunker, made bogey, and had to hit a beautiful wedge that checked up next to the cup for a tap-in birdie on No. 18 for a 71.

Els, playing at Torrey Pines for the first time since he was 14, was in a large group at 8-under 136.

Exhibiting a putting touch reminiscent of his prime, Tom Watson shot a bogey-free, 8-under-par 64 to take a two-stroke lead over Wayne Levi after the first round of the MasterCard Championship.

"You shoot low scores when you putt well," Watson said after exhibiting a putting touch reminiscent of his prime and firing eight birdies.

He didn't have a 5 on his scorecard at Hualalai Golf Club in shooting his lowest round since a 66 last year in the season-opening event on the Champions Tour.

Levi also had a bogey-free opening round. He made consecutive birdies at Nos. 4-5, and finished with three birdies on each nine.

"It feels like I'm flipping at the ball, but it's going straight," said Watson, a winner of eight major titles who was winless last year as he battled hip and shoulder injuries and weathered the emotional loss of his longtime caddie Bruce Edwards, who died in April of Lou Gehrig's disease.

Vicente Fernandez, who took two months off to allow a torn tendon in his left ring finger to heal, chipped in twice for birdie to lead a large group at 5-under 67. Fernandez also avoided making a bogey. Also at 67 were 2004 player of the year Craig Stadler, Dana Quigley, Morris Hatalsky and John Jacobs.

Quigley, the 2003 champion and runner-up last year, shot his ninth straight rounds in the 60s at Hualalai.

Six players, including defending champion Fuzzy Zoeller, were in with 68.

South African golfer Titch Moore shot a 2-under 70 on Friday for a two-stoke lead after the second round of the South African Open.

Moore, who opened with a 65, led fellow South Africans Hendrik Buhrmann and Tjaart van de Walt with four other players three shots behind at the Durban Country Club.

"I'm having a problem off the tee, Moore said. ``The first fairway I hit today was on the seventh hole, and that is something I will have to work on immediately because if you're not finding the fairways, you're not going to score on this course."

Moore also struggled to reach the greens, hitting only one green in regulation on the first five holes. But he birdied 13, 14, 16 and 18 to keep himself atop the leaderboard.

Bruce Vaughan of the US, co-leader after the first round, found things tougher on day two, shooting a 73 to fall three behind.