Originally created 05/11/02

Maruyama takes Nelson lead



IRVING, Texas -- Shigeki Maruyama demonstrated the growing Asian presence on PGA Tour leaderboards, making four straight birdies Friday on his way to a 7-under 63 and a two-stroke lead in the Byron Nelson Classic.

Maruyama, who won the Greater Milwaukee Open last year to become the first Japanese player to win a tour event on the mainland, pulled away from the pack with birdies on two of his last three holes and finished at 10-under 130.

A week ago, K.J. Choi became the first South Korean to win on tour with his four-stroke victory in New Orleans.

"I'm really satisfied with my game," Maruyama said.

Paul Stankowski, who lives in nearby Flower Mound, had a 65 on the Cottonwood Valley course and was two strokes behind at 132, along with Jim Carter (67).

Two other guys also seem to have a strong presence every week - Phil Mickelson, in contention yet again after a 64 that featured two eagles; and Tiger Woods, who was below the cut line when the second round started but quickly put that speculation out of sight.

Woods had a 65 on the TPC at Las Colinas. He not only made the cut for the 87th consecutive tour event - third-best on the career list - but gave himself a decent chance of winning his third title of the year.

"The only time you think about the cut is when you've only got two or three holes left and you're on the bubble," Woods said. "I just wanted to get within five or six shots of the lead."

He was at 136, six strokes behind.

Two years ago, Maruyama had a tie for the 36-hole lead in San Diego and Woods was going for his seventh straight PGA Tour victory. Asked if he could be the one to end Woods' winning streak, Maruyama smiled and said, "No chance."

Mickelson won that tournament, and Maruyama tied for second with Woods.

And now?

"Little chance," Maruyama said, pinching his fingers together and laughing.

Mickelson, who has contended on Sunday in his last four tournaments, was joined at 133 by two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen (69) and Jeff Maggert (67).

Mickelson had 14 pars but still managed a 64. He holed a 30-foot eagle putt on No. 7, then thrilled the crowd with another aggressive move by driving to the fringe of the 347-yard 11th hole and chipping in for another eagle.

Does he always try to drive the 11th hole at Las Colinas?

"Only on Thursday and Friday. On the weekend, there's more television coverage and I would get roasted," Mickelson said, making light of the criticism he has received for his gambling style.

The criticism isn't just from the media.

Stankowski talked about learning to play smart golf, citing Woods as an example.

"He doesn't make mistakes," Stankowski said. "There are other guys who do make mistakes. Granted, they still win, but they don't win as much as they should."

He later was asked what he thought of Mickelson's game.

"I'm not going to comment on him," Stankowski said. "I said something earlier. I think you can deduce it. Some players do play overly aggressive. More players should watch Tiger."

The leaders are typically bunched together in the tournament, and this year is no different. While Woods was only six strokes behind, he was in a tie for 25th. Also at 136 were British Open champion David Duval and PGA champion David Toms.

The cut was at 139, so even the bottom of the pack is within nine shots of the lead.

Among those missing the cut were Vijay Singh, coming off a three-week break because of an injured left foot, and Sergio Garcia, the defending champion next week at Colonial.

Maruyama made it look easy on another blustery and sometimes soggy day, which caused a one-hour delay in the morning while the courses dried out.

His birdie flurry on the TPC course began on the par-3 fifth hole with a 7-iron into 6 feet, and he followed that with a 20-footer on No. 6 and an easy up-and-down from just off the green on the par-5 seventh hole.

The most impressive birdie was at No. 8, a difficult hole playing into the wind with trees lining both sides of the fairway, and a back pin position. Maruyama hit a 4-iron from about 200 yards to 6 feet and was well on his way.

Little chance? OK, maybe a little better than that.

"As long as I can play my golf, the best golf in the field, I probably have a chance to win," he said. Divots: Players were allowed to pick up and clean their ball from the fairway. ... David Duval holed a 75-foot chip from a sidehill lie that flew straight into the cup and landed with such forced that it damaged the side of the hole. PGA Tour rules official Ben Nelson had to repair it before Jeff Maggert and Lee Janzen could hit their birdie putts. ... Phil Mickelson was at the Mavericks-Kings playoff game Thursday night, and planned to watch the Texas Rangers play Friday night. Discussing his love of sports, especially football, he proceeded to break down the NFL draft (he would have taken Julius Peppers with the first pick), and said the Cowboys had an excellent draft but need two more just like it.