Singh storms into Masters lead

By Doug Ferguson Associated Press Published:

AUGUSTA, Ga. _ Vijay Singh carved up the tough, new Augusta National. And this time, it counted.

In rain and muck that made the Masters a mess and kept Arnold Palmer around for one more day, Singh overpowered the back nine for a 7-under 65 and threatened to leave a world-class field in his wake _ at least for the moment.

By the time another downpour suspended the second round Friday with nearly half of the field still on the course, Singh was safely in the clubhouse with a four-stroke lead.

His 65, which featured an eagle and two birdies over the final four holes, was his best score at the Masters _ but not his best at Augusta National.

Curious about the sweeping changes that added 285 yards, the 2000 Masters champion got his first look at revamped Augusta a month ago during a practice round. He made 10 birdies in a round of 63.

"You shoot a low number like that on a practice day and you say, 'Wow! That wasn't that difficult.' It kind of eased my mind a little," he said.

It wasn't a good sign for everyone else.

Not only does Singh have good vibes at the Masters, he has a history of being a tough man to track down. The 39-year-old Fijian has won seven out of the 14 times he's held the lead going into the weekend, and he has never finished lower than fourth.

"I think I'm a much better player now than I was two years ago, and that should carry me through if I'm playing the same way," Singh said.

Still, he doesn't have the 36-hole lead just yet.

Palmer and Tiger Woods were among 38 players who didn't finish the second round because of the rain that sent small rivers running through Augusta National.

Palmer was playing his final round at the Masters, saying goodbye to an army of fans who saluted the four-time champion who has provided so many thrills the last 48 years.

The King had six holes remaining, so he can at least say this about his final Masters: He made it to the weekend. Play was to resume at 7:45 a.m. today.

"I'll come back to play in the morning," Palmer said. "I owe it to the crowd."

Singh was at 9-under 135, which was not the 36-hole score many expected on the new Augusta. Singh and most everyone else was spared by rain that filled the fairways with puddles in the morning and flooded the greens in the afternoon.

On a leaderboard dominated by international players, Sergio Garcia of Spain birdied the 18th hole for a 71 and was at 139, along with Padraig Harrington of Ireland (70) and Angel Cabrera of Argentina (71).

U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa birdied the 11th hole to get to 6-under par when play was halted.

Woods, trying to become only the third player to repeat as Masters champion, had a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 7 but had nothing else but pars through 10 holes. He was at 3 under.

Phil Mickelson was among eight players who had a share of the lead at one point Friday, although his four birdies were offset by four bogeys in a round of 72 that left him at 141, six strokes off the lead.

"I need a good round (today) _ as we all do," Mickelson said.

Singh was helped by the soft, calm conditions, and by his playing partner _ Thomas Bjorn of Denmark, who set a Masters record by making birdies on his first five holes.

"It's good to play with somebody who is making so many birdies," Singh said. "It kind of carries you along a little bit."

Bjorn finished with a 67 and was in the group at 141, along with Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, who shot a 71.

Based on what he saw Friday, Bjorn figures Singh will be tough to beat.

"He makes all the right shots all the time," Bjorn said. "He does exactly what he has to do at Augusta. It doesn't look that special, but he just keeps going and going."

Davis Love III, the first-round leader after a 67, missed three birdie putts inside five feet on his front nine and then fell apart on the back, finishing with a bogey for a 75 that dropped him to 142. Love did not stop to talk about his round.

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