Originally created 02/28/04

Taylor contending for first Tour win



TUCSON, Ariz. - Augusta's Vaughn Taylor continued to reel off birdies in the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, moving the former Augusta State star into contention for his first PGA Tour victory.

Taylor, a tour rookie playing his fourth event as a member, is three shots off the lead after a 66-68 start.

"I'm excited about playing and being in the hunt this weekend," said Taylor, who had eight birdies Friday and seven Thursday.

The former Augusta State star trails Heath Slocum (67-64) in the $3.1 tournament at Tucson National Golf Resort and Spa.

If Taylor had parred the No. 1 hole both days, he'd be tied for the lead. Taylor made bogey on the par-4 in Thursday's round and had a double bogey there Friday. Taylor three-putted the hole Thursday and hit two poor chips there Friday.

"I just hit a few bad shots in a row," Taylor said.

Taylor missed the cut in his first two PGA Tour starts this season, then tied for 25th place in the Buick Invitational, thanks in large part to a second-round 65.

"Starting with the second round in San Diego, I've been hitting my irons and wedges a lot better," Taylor said. "I feel more confident over the ball and my confidence has been going up."

Should Taylor win this week's $540,000 first-place money, it would give him $587,000 for the season and put him in the running to make April's Masters Tournament. The top 10 money winners as of March 28 make the Masters. Currently, the golfer in 10th place has earned $622,543.

"(Making the Masters) is in the back on my mind, but I don't think about it when I play," Taylor said. "I'll play one shot at a time and worry about it later."

Taylor started his round Friday on No. 10, which he birdied. He also birdied Nos. 11, 16, 17, 2, 3, 4 and 8. The highlight of his round came on No. 17, where he holed out a 50-foot chip shot.

ANZ LADIES MASTERS: In Gold Coast, Australia, England's Karen Stupples is making the most of her chances.

Playing on a promoter's invitation, Stupples shrugged off difficult afternoon conditions at Royal Pines to shoot 5-under-par 67 to take a two-stroke lead after the second round.

First-round leader Rachel Teske of Australia faltered with four bogeys on the back nine for 72. Annika Sorenstam, making her 2004 debut, stayed in touch with 70. She is four back of Stupples' 9-under 135.

Heavy rain earlier in the week left the course soggy and greens slow on Thursday and Friday morning, but the course firmed up in the afternoon breeze.

Australian Anne-Marie Knight and Filipino Jennifer Rosales, both of whom made morning starts, are tied for second at 7-under 137. Knight had two eagles after long approach shots for 66 while Rosales had the best round of the day with 65.

Knight's eagles came on the seventh and 18th, one of the toughest holes on the course.

"It was an unbelievable round of golf," Knight said. "The one on 18 was the pick of them. I had 170 yards to the pin, hit a 5-iron straight for the flag. I could tell from the crowd at the back of the green that it went in. On the seventh, from about 127 yards, I hit a little 9 and it again headed straight for the flag."

Teske had two birdies and eagled the par-5 ninth but bogeyed the 10th, 14th, 16th and 17th, to give her par on the day.

NATIONWIDE TOUR: In Christchurch, New Zealand, Australian David Diaz shot a bogey-free 67 to lead the New Zealand PGA Championship by one stroke after the second round.

Chilly winds gusting to 30 mph helped produce major changes on the leaderboard but didn't bother Diaz, who had five birdies to give him a 7-under total of 137. Canadian Jon Mills, who shot 71, was second.

Americans Ryan Armour (66), Scott Sterling (69), Bill Lunde (70) and Australian Lucas Parsons (68) shared third place.

First-round leader Dean Alaban of Australia shot 74 to fall into a tie with six others at 4-under.