Saturday, March 20, 2004

Maruyama moves ahead

Sorenstam takes lead in Safeway; Wie shoots 5-under 67

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. - Tiger Woods' drive for five at the Bay Hill Invitational took a major detour Friday. Trying to become the first player in history to win the same tournament five years in a row, Woods was out of bounds and in the trees on his way to a 2-over 74, which left him nine shots behind Shigeki Maruyama and needing to match his greatest 36-hole comeback to keep the streak alive.

"I just need to play well and put myself in position where I can give it a run on Sunday," Woods said. "If the leaders play well, hats off to them. I just need to take care of my own business."

As surprising as it was to see Woods so far down the leaderboard, it was equally stunning to see Maruyama playing like he owns this course.

In 10 previous rounds at Bay Hill, the Japanese star had never broken 70. Despite a three-putt bogey to end his round, Maruyama still piled up enough birdies for his second straight 66, giving him a two-shot lead over Darren Clarke, Chad Campbell and Stuart Appleby.

Maruyama was among the 36-hole leaders at Torrey Pines four years ago when Woods was trying to win his seventh consecutive PGA Tour event. Asked then if he could end the streak, Maruyama smiled and said, "No chance."

He and Woods wound up in a tie for second behind Phil Mickelson that year. On Friday, Maruyama again showed deference when asked if he was the guy to end Woods' streak at Bay Hill. "Very difficult question," he said with a smile. "Maybe eight shots from Tiger Woods after the third round, I would have a good chance."

Again, the loudest cheers Friday were for Arnold Palmer, 74, who can still put on a show. The tournament host, likely playing in his last Bay Hill Invitational, hit driver from the fairway on No. 18 and chased it up the green to about 30 feet. He got his par for a 79, the first time he has broken 80 at his tournament in three years.

LPGA TOUR: Annika Sorenstam is in the lead in her first tour start of the year, already exhibiting the skills that have made her the best female golfer in the world. Amateur Michelle Wie, 14, shot a 5-under 67 and showed why so many believe she is the heir apparent.

Sorenstam shot a methodical 7-under 65 in the second round to take a one-stroke lead halfway through the Safeway International at Superstition Mountain, Ariz.

She was at 12-under 132, ahead of Cristie Kerr, who matched her career best with a 9-under 63. "It could have been lower," Kerr said. "I had a couple of putts slip out."

Defending champ Se Ri Pak (68) was three back at 9-under 135. First-round leader Kim Saiki shot a 73 to drop five shots back at 7-under 137.

"I'm playing smart and giving myself good opportunities," said Sorenstam, the ANZ Masters winner three weeks ago in Australia in her only other event of the year.

"If I hit a good drive I'm playing aggressive. If I hit it poorly off the tee I play it conservatively. And the greens are so smooth. Once I see the line and hit it right there, it seems like they go in."

Wie, the 6-foot teen sensation, was seven back at 5-under 139.

Wie had eight birdies and three bogeys in the 90-plus degree sunshine of the Superstition Mountain Golf club 50 miles east Phoenix.

"I don't think I hit my shots as good as I did yesterday," Wie said, "but my putting definitely was a lot better. Those bogeys I made were pretty stupid. I felt really bad about those, but I made a lot of birdies."

She had four consecutive birdies on holes six through nine and reached 6-under through 14 holes, but had bogeys on the par-4, 310-yard 15th and par-4, 412-yard 16th.

Wie reached the green in two shots twice on par-5 holes. On the 552-yard 13th, she drove it about 320 yards off the tee, easily made the green on her next shot, then barely missed a 12-foot putt for eagle before tapping in for her seventh birdie of the round.

Then in front of a big gallery on the 508-yard 18th, she made the green in two, then almost sank a 30-foot eagle putt before tapping in to finish her round. She obviously was at ease. "I've played in 11 (LPGA) tournaments so far," Wie said, "so I'm not really a rookie anymore. I feel comfortable out here."

This is the first of the six LPGA events Wie plans to enter this year.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Tom Purtzer shot an 11-under 60 for a share of the tour record and a four-stroke lead after the first round of the Toshiba Classic in Newport Beach, Calif.

Purtzer, 52, became the fifth tour player to shoot a 60, joining Isao Aoki (1997), Walter Morgan and Bruce Fleisher (2002) and Jim Thorpe (2003).

Jack Nicklaus shot a 71, matching Hale Irwin, Lee Trevino and defending champion Rodger Davis.

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Maruyama moves ahead
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