Woods catches Lehman

Posted: Sunday, January 23, 2005

SAN DIEGO — More fog delays allowed the leaders to play no more than five holes Saturday in the Buick Invitational. Tiger Woods didn't even need that long to make up a three-shot deficit on Tom Lehman.

Woods birdied his first two holes, one of them by holing out from the bunker on No. 11, and was tied with Lehman at 14 under par when darkness fell on Torrey Pines.

Woods finished his second round early Saturday with a birdie to cap off a 63 on the easier North course, then waited some six hours before the fog lifted enough to see fairways and greens, but not the Pacific Ocean.

Lehman struggled from the onset, missing a 6-foot birdie on the first hole, then having to make a pair of 8-footers on the next two holes, one of them for par, the other for bogey.

Woods found the fairway on No. 14 when the horn sounded to suspend play, and elected to finish the hole. Lehman didn't bother to tee off, and will return to the tee Sunday morning — assuming there is no fog.

Peter Lonard, who completed his 65 early Saturday to join Woods at 12 under, decided to play the 14th and made a mess of it, taking double to slip back to 11 under, along with Luke Donald.

Ernie Els was 2 under through five holes and begging rules officials to halt play, saying he couldn't see. He was at 10 under, along with Kevin Sutherland and Dudley Hart.

And don't forget about Vijay Singh.

Quietly marching along in the group behind Woods — the leaders teed off on the back nine for television — the 41-year-old Fijian birdied three of his last four holes and was at 8 under.

The third round is expected to resume at 7:30 a.m.

The electricity in the gallery — most of that from fans having plenty of time to drink during a two-hour fog delay between the second and third rounds — made it feel like a typical Saturday afternoon on the PGA Tour with several top players in contention.

But there is a long way to go.

Sunshine bathed Torrey Pines all week, and with no rain in the forecast, no one imagined the Buick Invitational might be headed for a Monday finish. Tournament official Mark Russell held out hope that the tournament could be decided Sunday evening, but that requires no more fog delays.

And that might be asking a lot.

Nearly 60 players arrived Saturday morning to finish the second round. Some were on the practice range hitting soft lob wedges to about 70 yards, unable to see where the ball was landing.

After a 2 1/2-hour delay, the second round resumed.

And when the third round began, no one played more than four holes until Torrey Pines was shrouded anew in fog.

Phil Mickelson was at 5 under after 36 holes, but quickly faded from contention. He hit his approach into 3 feet on his second hole, the par-3 11th, only to miss the putt. He followed that with several other mistakes and was 4 over on his round through 11 holes, 11 shots out of the lead.

Woods could not have asked for a better start.

From a fairway bunker on No. 10, his approach spun back 12 feet above the hole, and he curled that in for a birdie. And right when it looked like he had short-sided himself on the 11th, his bunker shot was picking up speed when it rammed into the pin and dropped for birdie.

Els also started quickly with a 3-foot birdie on No. 10 and an 18-footer for birdie on the second hole. The Big Easy might be playing better than anyone, giving himself birdie chances inside 18 feet on every hole he played on the South course. He missed a 10-footer on the 14th, then waited on the 15th tee until play was suspended.

Divots: Ian Poulter and Bradley Hughes failed to return Saturday morning to finish the second round, neither of them having any chance to make the cut. Neither did Justin Leonard, but he returned — sharply dressed — to play one hole. Leonard said he has a sister who lives in the area, but probably would have shown up, anyway. ''I just would have a hard time doing that,'' he said of leaving before a round is over. And after a two-putt birdie on the 18th, Leonard added sarcastically, ''Plus, look at all the momentum I gave myself for next week.'' ... Charles Howell III was 4 under at the turn and at 9 under par. Howell is coming off a tie for third last week in the Sony Open. ... Sergio Garcia didn't even finish one hole before the first fog delay. Strangely, he elected to mark his 35-foot bogey putt, making that his first shot when play resumed. He missed and made double bogey, and was 12 shots behind.

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