Originally created 07/03/05

Curtis, Furyk duel atop Western



LEMONT, Ill. - Ben Curtis sure knows how to please a crowd.

The 2003 British Open champion sported another Chicago Bears golf shirt and visor at the Western Open on Saturday, then rolled in a 3-footer on 18 for a birdie and a share of the lead with Jim Furyk. Curtis (66) and Furyk (67) are at 12-under 201 after 54 holes.

But both should keep a close eye on the scoreboard because there are plenty of people behind them - including the world's two best players.

Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh might have gotten off to rough starts, but they're making up for it. Woods shot 4-under-par 67 and is tied for fourth with Shaun Micheel at 206, five strokes back. Singh flirted with the course record of 63 before settling for 6-under-par 65 that leaves him six strokes off the lead.

Tim Herron (70) is alone in second at three strokes back. Second-round leader Chris Couch struggled to 3-over-par 74, and is at 6-under 207.

"At least I've got a shot going into tomorrow," Woods said. "Hopefully those guys don't run away from it. If they don't put up three or four more birdies, I should be alright."

Curtis hasn't won since Royal St. George's, and he's made only three cuts this year. But he's looked sharp all week here, and did again Saturday with his second bogey-free round of the week.

While everyone else on the leaderboard was bouncing back and forth, Curtis was steady. He made birdies on Nos. 1 and 7, then got to 10-under with a birdie on the par-5 No. 11.

He picked up another stroke on the par-3 14th, then blew a chance for a birdie on 15 when his putt stopped about 3 feet short. But he ended the day in solid fashion, getting within 3 feet of the pin on 18 and rolling it in to the delight of the crowd.

Furyk, playing in the next group, had a chance to keep the lead to himself, but he had to settle for par when his birdie putt slid by the edge of the cup.

Furyk closed his front nine with birdies on two of the final three holes, but his big move came on the par-5 15th. Stuck at 10-under since No. 9, he had a 35-foot putt for eagle. The ball rolled slowly toward the cup and looked as if it might burn the edge.

But it dropped in, drawing a roar from the crowd and moving Furyk to 12-under.

Woods made things interesting when he birdied Nos. 6, 7 and 8 and then headed to what he calls the three easiest holes on the course. But he ran birdie putts a few feet past the hole on both 9 and 10, then watched helplessly as a 25-footer broke about a foot in front of the cup.

As the crowd groaned, Woods sank to his knees and then looked back at the fairway.

"If I would have gotten somewhere near 10, it would have been great, but I didn't quite get there," he said. "I got it to 7, which is fine."

Singh got off to a lousy start, playing two mediocre rounds and making the weekend on the cut line. But he made up for it Saturday, flirting with the course record of 63 after getting to 7-under on 13. He rolled in an 8-footer for his fourth birdie in five holes.

He couldn't keep the momentum going, though. On the green in two on the par-5 15th, he missed a 20-footer for eagle and wound up three-putting. He bogeyed the 16th when his 3-foot par putt slid by on the left edge of the cup.

Singh missed another birdie opportunity on 17, when a 12-footer burned the right edge of the cup.

"I would have loved to be at 8 instead of 6," Singh said. "It kind of takes a lot of air out of you because you really play hard to get into position and then you let it go. The same thing happened last week. You get into position and make two bogeys and then all of a sudden instead of two or three back, you're six or seven back."