One day after he tiptoed his way across

Associated Press Published:

One day after he tiptoed his way across Muirfield Village, Woods attacked a vulnerable course with a 9-under 63, closing with a chip-in for par and two tap-in birdies that gave him a one-stroke lead over Harrison Frazar.

On a warm, lazy day at Muirfield Village, Woods came to life with four straight birdies on the front nine, and then really brought the gallery to its feet with a finish that put him in great position to become the first repeat champion in the 25-year history of the tournament.

After a delicate blast from the sand barely climbed out of the bunker on the par-3 16th, he holed the chip for par, pointing his finger at the cup as the ball disappeared.

A 9-iron into No. 17 stopped a foot from the hole, and his 6-iron into the 18th spun back some 15 feet before settling about 18 inches from the cup for another birdie.

Through 36 holes, Woods was at 10-under 134.

"I hit a few solid shots, made a few putts here and there, and it came out to 63," Woods said, shrugging his shoulders with a smile.

The way he's been playing, perhaps a 63 is rather routine.

Until then, the best round of an easy day for scoring belonged to Ernie Els, who holed two bunker shots for birdie in a round of 64 that shot him into contention at 7-under 137.

Because of a storm system expected Saturday afternoon, the third round will feature threesomes going off on both tees about three hours early with hopes of finishing around 3 p.m. CBS Sports will televise the round on tape delay.

That puts Woods and Els together again for the first time since their sensational, season-opening show in Hawaii, where they each made eagle on the 72nd hole and Woods won on the second playoff hole with a 40-foot birdie putt.

Els came close in the Masters, then squandered a lead the next week at Hilton Head. He hasn't won in over a year, but his game looks like it's rounding into form with the U.S. Open just three weeks away.

"The way I'm playing, I've got to think about winning now," Els said. "I've got to go out there and do my thing. I've got a lot of chances to come, but I'll try to take the first chance that comes my way."

Canadian Mike Weir (65) was among five players at 5-under 139, while Gary Nicklaus played another solid round (68) and was another stroke back, hopeful for a memorable weekend in the tournament his father founded when Gary was still in grade school.

Jack Nicklaus, despite bogeys on the final two holes, had a 73, but that was just enough to get in two more rounds on the weekend.

Without the wind, Muirfield played three strokes easier than the first round as 54 players broke par, compared to just 18 on Thursday.

No one had a round quite like Woods.

Frazar was already in with a 69 and comfortably leading when Woods teed off.

"I saw some of the numbers guys were putting up and I said, 'I'd like to get into the mix of that.' And I was able to do that," Woods said. "You could go ahead and attack."

It began with four straight birdies, starting on the par-5 fifth. Wood missed a 4-foot birdie on the par-5 11th, but that only seemed to get him going as his irons began tracking to the flags like lasers.

"I've always been a player who could string shots together," Woods said. "Once I get going, I tend to keep it going."

His only threat of bogey came on No. 16, where a nearly perfect bunker shot came up 6 inches short of its intended target and stayed in the first cut.

"I figured I had some pretty good luck around this golf course chipping in," said Woods, who holed a chip in the final round last year on his way to a two-stroke victory. "I figured I might as well chip this in."

Woods and Els will also get the company of Frazar, who had it at 10 under until a bogey late in the round dropped him to 135.

SENIORS

Boone Valley Classic

AUGUSTA, Mo. _ Larry Nelson and Leonard Thompson shot 6-under-par 66s to share the first-round lead.

Nelson, the 1998 winner, had six birdies in a bogey-free round on the rain-soaked Boone Valley Country Club course.

"I only missed one fairway and I was putting well," said Nelson, who won the Las Vegas Senior Classic last month for his sixth senior title.

"It was really important to drive the ball well because this rough is really tough. I'm happy to have made six birdies.

"I'm not portrayed as an exciting person and I think my round today was steady like I am."

Thompson had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys in the round that was delayed for 4 1/2 hours because of rain.

"I never really felt loose most of the day," Thompson said. "I don't usually play well in this kind of weather. My back was tight all day and I never did get comfortable."

LPGA

CORNING, N.Y. _ Mi Hyun Kim lost her focus Friday in the LPGA Corning Classic. She did not, however, lose her lead.

The 23-year-old South Korean, who had a first-round 65, kept her hold on first place with a solid, 2-under 70 as some familiar faces moved into contention two strokes back.

Cindy Flom, the 1987 winner, matched her career best with a 65 and was tied at 137 with Nancy Ramsbottom and Betsy King, the 1991 champion. Ramsbottom, who had three birdies and an eagle on the front nine, shot a 67.

Defending champion Kelli Kuehne was another stroke back after her second straight 69. Penny Hammel, who had an opening 67, faltered with a 75 and fell from sole possession of second to well off the leaderboard.

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