Singh weathers the storm

By Doug Ferguson Associated Press Published:

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. _ Oblivious to Tiger Woods' streak and fickle weather that either blew rain in his face or cast long shadows in the afternoon, Vijay Singh went about his business Saturday and wound up leading the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Singh saved several good pars in a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 at Pebble Beach, giving him 133 over two rounds and a one-stroke lead over Notah Begay.

Begay also played Pebble and had a 68, although his round of eight birdies and four bogeys was far from the consistency Singh displayed on a day that featured everything the Monterey Peninsula has to offer _ clouds, wind, rain, sunshine.

Adding to a difficult second round was the pace of play _ close to six hours for most foursomes.

"It was tough to concentrate, and I did it well today," said Begay, who has a one-week jail sentence awaiting him for drunken driving at the end of the West Coast swing.

Matt Gogel, a Nike Tour grad who played in the final group in the Bob Hope Classic two weeks ago, had a 68 at Poppy Hills and was at 137.

Because of rain and high wind earlier in the week, the third round will be played Sunday and the final round _ weather permitting _ on Monday. A year ago, the final round was washed out and Payne Stewart was a 54-hole champion.

If that holds true again _ Pebble has had only one 72-hole tournament the past four years _ then Woods has his work cut out if he wants to match Ben Hogan's six-tournament winning streak in 1948.

Woods had a new driver in his bag Saturday after the head snapped off his regular one the day before. What hurt him more was the putter, several birdie chances escaping him at Spyglass Hill.

Woods bogeyed three of the last seven holes for a 1-over 73. That put an end to one streak _ 13 consecutive round on tour at par or better _ and could be the end of his amazing streak of five straight tour victories. At 141, he was eight strokes back.

David Duval also played Spyglass and tumbled out of contention. He made his first bogey of the week on his opening hole _ with a wedge in his hand _ and had a 76 to fall nine strokes out of the lead.

Woods' PGA Tour winning streak dates to the NEC Invitational in August. Begay says there's no bounty for the player who can stop it, but he did offer some perspective from when they were teammates at Stanford.

"If you can beat Tiger, usually you're going to be near the lead," Begay said. "That's how it was in school. If I can just beat him, I know I'm either going to win the tournament or I'm going to be right there."

That's not Singh's approach.

The former PGA champion couldn't care less about Woods' streak, or the weather, or if he got a break by not having to play Pebble in even stronger wind that knocked out so many other players on Thursday.

"I'm not really worried about his streak," Singh said. "I'm just going to go out there and try to win the golf tournament. Sooner or later, somebody is going to break that."

Singh was at peace with himself throughout the round, especially with his putter. He is one of the best when he gets it going with the flat stick, and his assessment over two rounds should make him a good candidate to win this week.

"I haven't putted this consistently for two days for a while," he said. "I'm not fighting anything. I pick a line and hit it, instead of worrying about how much it's going to break."

Tied with Begay and Duval to start the second round, he got off to a quick start with short birdie putts on Nos. 2 and 4, a 12-foot bunker shot he holed on the par-3 fifth, and a 7-iron from 102 yards to 15 feet on the par-3 seventh.

Begay might be leading if not for the par-3s. He bogeyed three of them, including No. 17, when he tried to finesse a 4-iron into the wind that came up some 30 yards short.

"Embarrassing," he said.

All was not lost. He did manage eight birdies on a tough day at Pebble, and has a chance to win for the third time in his last 12 PGA Tour events.

For all that he's been through over the past couple of weeks, Begay would like to be noticed for his golf instead of his problems off the course.

He pleaded guilty to aggravated drunken driving in New Mexico, although he has earned high praise for the way he has owned to his mistake. He'll spend a week in jail right after the Match Play Championship.

"I realize I'm really lucky to be out here, and I appreciate the opportunity to just compete," he said. "With the court's decision behind me, maybe I just need to win this so I can give someone else something to write about."

DIVOTS: The tournament is sponsored by AT&T. ... Ken Griffey Jr. hit a wedge to about 40 feet on the 121-yard 15th hole at Spyglass Hill. Then he put another ball just inside that _ by throwing it from the tee. ... Lift, clean and place has been in effect since the start of the tournament. The last time the ball was played down at Pebble was in 1992. ... Gary Nicklaus was at 4-under until making two double bogeys on the back nine at Poppy Hills. He finished at 1-over 145. ... The last player to go wire to wire at Pebble _ at least a share of the lead after every round _ was Tom Shaw in 1971.

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