Originally created 10/26/02

Low scoring dominates Buick Challenge



PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- Phil Mickelson looked like he was headed for an early departure. By the end of his second round at the Buick Challenge, he was only one stroke out of the lead and far from surprised.

"There's a lot of birdies out there," said Mickelson, who made seven of them on his final 10 holes at soft, soggy Callaway Gardens.

He wasn't the only one making them.

Craig Parry had an 8-under 64, matching the best round of his PGA Tour career. He was tied for the lead at 13-under 131 with Tim Herron (68), who mastered the front nine of the Mountain View course for the second straight day.

What amazed Mickelson was that at 12 under, he was still in the game.

"There should be a 12 or 13 under in one round, not over two (rounds)," Lefty said.

It sounds outrageous, but not considering the wet conditions. Players are allowed to lift, clean and replace their balls in the fairway, which is always an advantage. They are attacking every pin because the greens are so spongy.

The cut was at 5-under par, falling one stroke short of the PGA Tour record set last week at the Disney World Golf Classic. Only eight strokes separate the leaders from the those at the bottom of the pack.

"You know you have to shoot pretty low," Herron said.

Herron did his damage on the front nine. After tying the course record with a 29 in the opening round, he made five birdies over the first nine holes and was poised to run away from the field until the putts stopped falling.

That wasn't the case for Parry.

While he didn't make every putt, it sure seemed that way. And even when the Aussie missed the green, like he did on the par-3 16th, his chip from a troublesome lie in the rough rolled into the center of the cup.

He felt like he needed to apologize, at least to his playing partners.

"Pretty embarrassing," Parry said. "It was going in from everywhere."

Jonathan Byrd had a 66 and was at 11-under 133, while the group at 134 included David Toms (68), Chris Riley (66) and J.L. Lewis (66).

Mickelson wound up with a 67, a strong score considering some of the shots he played on his front nine.

It started on the par-5 15th, where Mickelson drove into the left rough. He had a slight downhill lie that would help keep the ball under some tree limbs, then 235 yards to a green protected by a large section of the lake.

Time for a 3-wood.

"It really wasn't that hard of a shot," Mickelson said. "I had a good lie. The green was 60 or 70 yards wide. I just hit it fat."

He had to get up-and-down from thick rough to make bogey, then hit a poor chip on the 17th and three-putted from 20 feet for a double bogey.

That put him at 5-under par for the tournament - the eventual cut line - but Mickelson bounced back quickly.

"I finished well," Mickelson said. "That's not uncommon out here to play a 10-hole stretch in 7 under. Guys are going to do that."

And they might have to do it for two more days.

More rain is in the forecast, and officials have moved up the tee times to 8 a.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday, when daylight-savings time ends.

Lewis figured he needed 15 under on the weekend just to have a chance to win. That wouldn't get him into the Tour Championship, but the 42-year-old former club pro from Texas still wants to get into the top 40 on the money list to qualify for the Masters.

Parry can get into the Tour Championship with a victory, although that's not what motivates him this week. He already has purchased his plane ticket home to Australia, no matter how he finishes at Callaway Gardens or if he cracks the top 30 on the money list.

"I figured if I was going to get into the top 30, I would have to win this week," he said. "And if I won this week, that's enough money. I'll go home."

Divots: Chris DiMarco became part of the most bizarre statistic on the PGA Tour this year. He shot 74 on Friday to finish at even-par 144, making him the 18th player to miss the cut at a tournament where he was the defending champion. ... Parry also had a 64 in the first round of the Las Vegas Classic last year. ... Brandel Chamblee was disqualified after opening with a 5-under 67 because of the most minor details that he overlooked. He never officially registered when he arrived at Callaway Gardens. Briny Baird also was disqualified after a 76 for not taking a penalty stroke. He didn't realize his mistake until talking about his round with a tour official. ... Scott Verplank withdrew Friday because of personal reasons. ... Craig Perks won The Players Championship and $1,080,000, but he won't be going to the Tour Championship. Perks was 34th on the money list and missed the cut. Bob Estes, who is 26th on the money list, almost missed the cut, although he should be safe. ... Rookie-of-the-year candidate Peter Lonard missed his first cut of the year.