Even when Ernie Els doesn’t live up to his own expectations, he’s still better than practically everyone else at the Westchester Country Club.
Els’ 3-under-par 68 Friday, a mediocre round for him on a course he has come to dominate, still allowed him to increase his lead from two to three strokes midway through the Buick Classic.
Els birdied three of the first five holes Friday to get to 10-under. He admitted that he started to think of bettering his 64 of Thursday.
“I had visions of going really low again,” he said. “It didn’t turn out that way. I was quite patient with myself. I messed up a couple of par-5s on 9 and 18, I didn’t birdie them. But I made some good saves, too.”
Els played even-par golf after his hot start Friday to finish at 10-under 132, one shot off the tournament’s record for best score after 36 holes. In 1976, David Graham shot 131 here in the first two rounds as did Els last year.
Els had predicted that Friday’s scores would be higher than the first round.
“They had some pins tucked away and I could hardly get very close today,” Els said. “I hit it 25, 30, 35 feet most of the day, so it’s kind of tough to make birdies from there. … But around this course, par is not too bad.”
Jim Furyk also shot 68 Friday and was alone at 7-under 135. Jeff Maggert (69) and Brad Fabel (67) were another stroke back at 6-under 136.
Tiger Woods birdied his last hole to shoot a 1-over 72. He was at 2-over 144.
Paul Azinger shot a 69 Friday for a two-round total of 136 and a share of third place, only to be disqualified for failing to sign his scorecard before leaving the scorer’s tent after his last hole.
Two tied in Rochester
In Rochester, N.Y., Nanci Bowen, whose sole victory on tour came in a major championship in 1995, fired a 5-under-par 67 to vault into a tie with Nancy Scranton midway through the LPGA Rochester International.
Both sank long birdie putts shortly before an afternoon thunderstorm interrupted second-round play for 40 minutes at Locust Hill Country Club.
“I’m getting there, but I’m not about to make any predictions,” said Scranton, rebounding from shoulder surgery that kept her off the golf circuit last year. Her 4-under-par moved her to 135, 9-under overall.
Defending champion Dottie Pepper, Cindy Schreyer and first-round leader Michelle McCann were all at 6-under. Clarkston’s Robin Walton was at 2-under for the tournament after shooting a 69.
Murphy cruises to seniors lead
Two weeks off was just what Bob Murphy needed.
The relaxed Murphy fired a near-perfect, 8-under-par 64 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Nationwide Championship seniors tournament, in Alpharetta, Ga.
Murphy, seeking his 12th senior tour victory, carded eight birdies without a bogey over the par-72 Golf Club of Georgia Lakeside Course.
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