Originally created 05/15/04

Tiger's halfway home



IRVING, Texas - The position atop the leaderboard should be familiar to Tiger Woods. So should the company he'll be keeping in today's third round of the Byron Nelson Championship.

Woods sprinkled in a few birdies with some solid par saves for 3-under-par 67 on Friday at cool, blustery Cottonwood Valley and took a one-shot lead for the second week in a row. The surprise is who will join him on the first tee this afternoon - 47-year-old Mark O'Meara, his best buddy on tour.

O'Meara, who had 66, has not won on the PGA Tour since the 1998 British Open and is playing this year on a one-time exemption for being in the top 25 in career money. Even though he won earlier this year in the Dubai Desert Classic - a field that included Woods and Ernie Els - there is no substitute for winning at home.

Woods, the No. 1 player in the world, has come under severe scrutiny for a game that has produced only one victory this year and no majors in his past seven tries.

"I've always felt comfortable when I've been in the lead," Woods said, although he lost the 36-hole lead last week at the Wachovia Championship, ending a five-year streak of winning when he led going into the weekend.

Woods is at 8-under 132, his best start at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship since a 64-64 beginning in 1997, when he won.

Sergio Garcia, who finished third in his PGA Tour debut at the Byron Nelson five years ago, birdied three of his final four holes on the TPC at Las Colinas to salvage 68 and was in a large group at 134 that included Peter Lonard (70), Jerry Kelly (68) and former Clemson star Jonathan Byrd (67).

Masters Tournament champion Phil Mickelson had a couple of streaks come to a close.

He shot 72, ending his run of 21 consecutive rounds at par or better.

Mickelson also finished at 141, and missed the cut for the first time this year.

FRANKLIN CHAMPIONSHIP: In Franklin, Tenn., Lorena Ochoa gets a second chance to play as a co-leader.

Ochoa shot 5-under-par 67 and shared a one-stroke lead with Pat Hurst in the weather-delayed second round of the Franklin American Mortgage championship.

Ochoa and Hurst are at 7-under 137.

First-round leader Nancy Scranton, Dorothy Delasin and Wendy Ward were tied for third at 138.

Play was called because of darkness Friday night with 19 golfers still on the course.

Last week, Ochoa tied for second, two strokes behind winner Se Ri Pak despite sharing the third-round lead at the Michelob Ultra Open.

ASIAN OPEN: In Shanghai, China, Simon Dyson of England shot 3-under-par 69 to take a two-stroke lead halfway through the tournament, with Greg Norman four shots behind.

Dyson, whose first-round 66 was a course record, is at 9-under 135. Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain (66) and Paul McGinley of Ireland (69) share second at 137.

Norman, one stroke back after the first round, shot 72. The 49-year-old Australian made four bogeys.

Defending champion Padraig Harrington shot a second straight 72 and was nine strokes off the lead.

The Asian Open is the richest golf tournament in China, with the winner earning $250,000. It's also the first tournament in China co-sponsored by the Asian and European tours.

FRANKLIN AMERICAN MORTGAGE CHAMPIONSHIP: In Franklin, Tenn., Lorena Ochoa gets a second chance to play as a co-leader.

Ochoa shot a 5-under 67 Friday and shared a one-stroke lead with Pat Hurst in the weather-delayed second round of the Franklin American Mortgage championship.

Play was called because of darkness Friday night with 19 golfers still on the course.

Last week, Ochoa finished tied for second, two strokes behind winner Se Ri Pak despite sharing the third-round lead at the Michelob Ultra Open. The native of Mexico said she learned she must be aggressive instead of cautiously protecting of her lead.

"I need to try and go for it, go straight for the pin and make a lot of birdies out there. Last week, I played a little bit too conservatively in the last round," said Ochoa, the 2003 rookie of the year who is looking for her first career victory.

"You've got to play good yourself and not wait for others to make mistakes, so I just need to be confident with my game and be aggressive.

Ochoa, who had six birdies and a bogey Friday, was at round for a 7-under 137 total that tied her with Hurst who just missed birdie putts on her final two holes to finish with six birdies and two bogeys on a Legends Club course where she won in 2000.

"I feel pretty comfortable out here," Hurst said. "I feel like I am in good position looking into the weekend."

First-round leader Nancy Scranton, Dorothy Delasin and Wendy Ward were tied for third at 138.

Scranton lipped out a par putt on her final hole to cap a 72. Delasin closed a 67 by chipping past the pin and then knocking a par putt 4 feet past the hole.

Ward, who had a 70, missed birdie putts of 6, 7 and 12 feet over her final four holes. Wendy Doolan (70) and Stacy Prammanasudh (72) were at 139.

Golfers struggled with winds that gusted up to 25 mph until heavy rains stopped play for 1 hour, 40 minutes in the late afternoon.

Ochoa started four strokes off the lead and parred her first four holes. She hit 12 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens while needing only 29 putts.

An 8-iron to 10 feet on No. 5 set up her first birdie, and she added three more over the next four holes with her longest putt a 15-footer on the par-4 8th. Her lone bogey came on No. 11 when she hit into the left rough and put a 9-iron over the green and three-putted.

She hit a 51-degree wedge to 3 feet on the par-5 14th for birdie and took the lead on 16 as she hit a 7-iron to 13 feet and made the birdie putt. Ochoa avoided dropping a shot on the par-5 18th despite two shots into the left rough by putting her third shot past the pin.

"It was important for me to catch up ... and be in a good position," she said.

Hurst, whose best finish was a tie for eighth last week, always plays well here. She could have had the lead to herself if not for bogeys on two holes playing into the wind - the par-3 16th and the par-4 2nd.

The second bogey came after she had grabbed a share of the lead with Scranton, and she rebounded on the par-5 7th as she used a 3-wood to the green and two-putted for birdie.

Ward expects a chase to the end with everyone bunched up.

"This is a birdie golf course," she said. "Conditions like this make it pretty tough, but I would say 16 out of 18 of the holes are birdie holes easily."

Divots: Aree Song was set to miss the first cut of her rookie season with a 148 total. If she was to become the youngest player to win on the LPGA Tour, she had to win by Friday to beat out Marlene Hagge who was 18 years, 14 days when she won in 1942. Song double-bogeyed No. 18 after hitting into the water twice. ... Anna Acker-Macosko finished nine holes and was at 6 over when she withdrew because of illness. ... Vanderbilt senior Sara Jacobs, who will be turning pro after the upcoming NCAA tournament, missed the cut after being given a sponsor's exemption. She finished with a 153 total.