Originally created 03/27/04

Sutherland, Kelly tied up



PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Tiger Woods' storied cut streak was about the only thing that emerged safely from a wet, windy second round at The Players Championship on Friday.

The first-round lead that Australian upstart Adam Scott had built the day before didn't survive the afternoon. The best opening round of Duffy Waldorf's TPC career didn't hold up, either.

And Phil Mickelson's late charge to near the top of the leaderboard? A bogey in swirling wind on No. 15 took care of that.

"A strange day," Scott said after his second-round 72 dropped him from first place to two strokes behind new co-leaders Kevin Sutherland and Jerry Kelly.

"That's the best way I can put it. With the rain and the wind, it was a very strange day."

Not to mention a potentially historic day, too, thanks to the drama surrounding Woods and his record stretch of 119 consecutive cuts made.

That streak appeared in serious danger after Woods carded 3-over-par 75 in Thursday's opening round, but he quickly eased the tension Friday by recording an eagle and a birdie in his first three holes.

Woods was steady the rest of the way, and he stands even for the tournament.

Not that any of his fellow golfers expected the No. 1-ranked player in the world to miss the final two days of the tournament this weekend.

"Seeing him make the cut didn't surprise me at all," said Kelly, whose own round of 6-under-par 66 tied his career best at the tournament.

"I almost expected to see him [near the top of the leaderboard], to tell you the truth."

At nine strokes off the pace, Woods will need to make a serious charge this weekend to win this event for the second time in four years. But talk of his uncanny streak ending will have to wait at least another week.

"I got off great," Woods said, referring to his eagle on the par-5 11th hole and subsequent birdie on the par-4 12th. "It was a perfect start. I didn't quite get to the score I had in my mind, but overall, I hung in there and got the job done."

So did Sutherland and Kelly, who weathered Friday's unpredictable conditions in impressive fashion to unseat Scott and Waldorf atop the leaderboard.

Although Kelly finished fifth in last week's Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando, his sudden surge with a second-round 66 turned the most heads.

Kelly, who has won two tournaments in six full seasons on the PGA Tour, had four birdies by the turn Friday and pulled even with Sutherland midway through the back nine despite constant wind and a couple of rain showers roughly two hours apart late in the afternoon.

The top of the TPC leaderboard isn't unfamiliar territory for Kelly, a consistent money-winner the past two seasons who placed fourth here in 2001, but he was generating little buzz coming into the tournament.

That abruptly changed Friday afternoon, when Kelly - who doesn't have a bogey through the first two rounds - surged past Ernie Els while Scott and Waldorf fell back. Els is tied for third with Scott, two strokes back, after 69.

"It was a good kick-start round for me," Kelly said. "I thought we were in for a pretty long and tough day, especially when the wind picked up. I had a chance to stall out a couple of times, but I ended up coming through it OK."

The afternoon showers initially were welcomed because they softened the greens, which are notorious at the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course for turning fast, dry and firm as the tournament wears on.

But Kelly and Mickelson were among the few players who took advantage of the softer greens, mainly because the strong winds that accompanied the rain.

"It would rain, then slow down, then start blowing again," said Waldorf, who followed an opening-round 66 with a 1-over 73 to fall from second place into a tie for seventh.

"That was tough. The rain made the greens easier, but I don't know if it made the course play any easier."