Originally created 07/08/06

Chopra takes the lead at Western Open



LEMONT, Ill. - Tiger Woods rebounded from a rough opening round at the Western Open, but Phil Mickelson stumbled badly. And Stewart Cink jumped into contention with one of the best rounds ever at the tournament.

Woods shot a 4-under 67 during the second round Friday, a day after struggling for a 1 over. Still, he was seven shots behind leader Daniel Chopra, who carded a 5-under 66 to hold a two-stroke lead over Vijay Singh at Cog Hill.

Chopra, who began the day in a four-way tie for the lead, is at 10 under. Singh shot 67 to stand at 8 under. Mickelson, who went into the second round one stroke back, shot a 3-over 74 and was 1 under for the tournament.

But it was Cink who impressed after a 6-under 29 on the front nine tied the tournament's nine-hole record. His 64 for the round was one off the mark for 18 holes. That put him at 7-under 135 and in a tie for third with Trevor Immelman and Joe Ogilvie.

"I can't remember playing nine holes any better than that," Cink said. "I don't think I missed a shot, and I didn't miss many putts, either."

After shooting 71 in the first round, Cink birdied six of the first nine holes and finished with nine in all. His only blemishes were bogeys on 13 and 18.

Mickelson seemed to answer any questions about his psyche Thursday when he shot a 4 under in his first tournament following his collapse on the final hole of the U.S. Open.

But things came apart early Friday.

"I just didn't play the way I wanted to, but again, we've got two more rounds," Mickelson said.

Mickelson bogeyed the second, third, fourth and fifth holes and was at 4-over 39 through the first nine. The fact that he was in Cink's group only magnified his struggles.

"I'm happy to see him playing well because we need Stewart Cink on our Ryder Cup team," Mickelson said. "He's one of our best players. He needs to have a good week for not just himself but for the team, because we really want him on that team."

While Mickelson faltered, Woods seemed to benefit from a long practice session following the opening round.

After failing to make the cut at the U.S. Open, Woods was in danger again. He spent several hours on the range after his round Thursday working on various elements - or, as he called it, "a combo platter."

"If I didn't do a couple things right, I couldn't do the next couple," said Woods, a three-time winner at Cog Hill.

On Thursday, his "distance control" was off. On Friday, his putting game faltered a bit.

He started on the 10th tee and birdied Nos. 11, 13, 14, 15, and 17 but was even the rest of the way. He missed short birdie putts on his final two holes. And he bogeyed No. 16.

"I'm pleased with the way I was able to make the changes from yesterday to today and adapt, and hopefully... (I) get it turned around for tomorrow."

Singh had four birdies and no bogeys. His tee shots were a little off on his first nine holes, but he turned that around.

"I've been really struggling for the last five months off the tees," Singh said. "You know, it's half good and half bad right now. I'd like to get most of it good. It's pretty hard to do that when you're changing drivers almost every week, and that's what I've been doing."

Chopra, whose best finish this year is a tie for fifth at Pebble Beach in February, birdied seven of nine holes at one point, starting with the par-4 10th.

"It's funny because I do tend to get that way," he said. "There have been a few stretches early in the season, as well, where I'd get it going. I think this is probably the biggest stretch, with seven birdies in nine holes."