Originally created 01/13/02

Woods climbs into contention



PARAPARAUMU BEACH, New Zealand - Tiger Woods splashed his way into contention for the New Zealand Open on Saturday, shooting a 4-under-par 67 during a delayed third round that put him closer to the leaders.

Forced from the course for 3 hours, 15 minutes, because of heavy rain that flooded the greens and fairways at the Paraparaumu Beach links course, Woods had a three-round total of 3-under 210. He is seven strokes behind leader Stephen Leaney of Australia.

Leaney was one of 14 golfers who had to complete their third rounds Sunday morning (Australian time) after darkness forced them off the course Saturday.

Leaney, at 9 under overnight along with Steve Alker of New Zealand, took the outright lead with a birdie on the 18th hole, giving him a third-round 68 and a three-round total of 10-under 203.

The fourth round was to be played later Sunday, with organizers putting the field off the first and 10th tees. But the rain that delayed the third round Saturday was still there Sunday.

Alker is in second place at 9 under after a 68. Michael Campbell of New Zealand had Saturday's best round, a 66, to move to 8 under and two off the lead along with Craig Parry of Australia, who shot a 69.

Woods, who took nearly eight hours Saturday to play his round because of the delay, again took issue with the condition of the greens, saying they were inconsistent and bumpy.

"It doesn't really matter (how) some of your reads" are, said Woods, who moved into a tie for 13th place, up from 41 after Friday. "Sometime they break left and bounce right. You hit and hope it will find its way to the bottom."

Woods said he spent the rain break eating a lot and watching TV. He added that he got some help from the course workers when they rolled water off the greens.

"The good positive thing is with the rain coming down like that they squeegee the greens and that makes them a little bit smoother," Woods said. "I made the putts on those greens."

Woods was at 3 under for the day and on the 12th hole when play was suspended after starting the day eight shots behind. From there, he had an inconsistent finish.

He birdied the 12th and bogied the 13th before leaving his approach within 7 feet on 15 and making a birdie. After a par on the 16th, he had a bogey on the 17th - missing the green, making a bad chip up from a bank and missing the par putt.

He birdied the par-5 18th when his 25-foot eagle putt stopped just short of the hole.

Organizers paid Woods a reported $2 million appearance fees to come to the tournament, his first visit to New Zealand. His caddie, Steve Williams, grew up around the Paraparaumu Beach layout and played the course as a junior.

NEW ZEALAND OUTING: Tiger Woods spent Saturday afternoon dodging raindrops in the New Zealand Open and Saturday night watching caddie Steve Williams race at Manawatu Motor Speedway.

Williams competed in three 12-lap races on the dirt-track oval in his converted Ford Mustang.

Speedway organizers at Palmerston North, 45 miles north of the tournament venue at Paraparaumu Beach, were surprised to receive a phone call an hour before racing began saying Woods and Williams were on their way.

Rain had forced the postponement of racing at the Te Marua Speedway north of Wellington where Williams had originally planned to race Saturday night with Woods as his guest.

A police helicopter flew to the Manawatu track before Woods' arrival and armed members of the tactical squad assigned to Woods' protection this week searched the course before racing began.

Another helicopter arrived with more armed police and Woods and Williams arrived in a third helicopter minutes later. Williams' car had been driven to the course on a trailer earlier Saturday.

Security for Woods was tightened when the U.S. Embassy in Wellington received in December a letter containing cyanide and making threats against the tournament.

Race officials learned of Woods' attendance too late to publicize his appearance.

"There was probably a bit of a walkup crowd when people heard on the radio that he was there," spokesman Tony Coffin said. "A lot of people saw the helicopters arriving and might have guessed what was happening."

Woods watched Williams' race from the course press box, vacated for his use, and made several visits to the pits to watch Williams prepare his car for racing. He seemed relaxed and mixed freely with drivers, mechanics and spectators, Coffin said.

"Tiger seemed to enjoy the low profile and he seemed a bit frustrated when a whole pile of photographers turned up halfway through," Coffin said. "He was a bit more guarded after that."

SOUTH AFRICAN OPEN: Tim Clark took advantage of poor putting by James Kingston and took a two-stroke lead Saturday after the third round of the South African Open in Durban.

Clark shot a 4-under-par 68 and was at 204, 12-under par for the three rounds. U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen was a 69 in very windy conditions and was tied for second with Jonathan Lomas, who shot a 71.

Ernie Els, who opened with a 73 on Thursday, had a 68 and was six back in the even, cosponsored by the European PGA Tour.