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Taniguchi surprise Nissan leader

Feb. 15, 2002 at 9:00 PM   |   Comments

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif., Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Toru Taniguchi, known

as the "Japanese Tiger," emerged as the surprise leader midway

through the $3.7 million Nissan Open Friday.

Playing in his first PGA Tour event of the year, the 34-year-old

Taniguchi carded a 4-under-par 67 at Riviera Country

Club to open a one-stroke lead over a quartet of players. He has

a 36-hole total of 9-under 133.

First-round leader Jesper Parnevik is in a four-way tie for

second with Brad Faxon, former UCLA star Scott McCarron and Len

Mattiace at 134. McCarron put the local knowledge to good use,

shooting the day's low round, a 6-under 65.

Bob Tway is alone in sixth at 7-under 135, one shot ahead of

another quartet that includes David Duval.

While virtually unknown on the PGA Tour, Taniguchi did have some

success on American soil last year, posting four top-10 finishes

in nine events. His best result was a third at the WGC

Accenture Match Play Championship.

Prior to last year, Taniguchi had played in only one PGA Tour

event, the 1998 British Open.

He would love to follow in the footsteps of countryman Shigeki

Maruyama, who last year became the first native of Japan to win

a tournament in the United States when he captured the Greater

Milwaukee Open.

Faxon, who carded his second straight 67, is playing at the site

of his victory in the 1995 PGA Championship, when he posted a

final-round 63 -- which included a 28 on the front -- to qualify

for the Ryder Cup.

Parnevik failed to crack the top 10 in his first six starts this

year, but the Swede debuted a new cross-handed putting style

Thursday that has produced immediate results.

Parnevik dropped out of the lead before teeing off Friday and

trailed by four strokes midway through the round. But he made a

late charge, birdying four of his final seven holes to climb

within one shot of the lead.

Parnevik has enjoyed some success here, finishing one stroke

behind tournament champion Kirk Triplett at the 2000 Nissan Open

and tying for 13th last year.

The tournament lost a bit of its luster when Tiger Woods, who

grew up in Southern California, withdrew earlier this week.

Woods said he has been ill for two weeks and needs some time

away from the golf course.

The Nissan Open was Woods' first PGA Tour event which he played

as a 16-year-old amateur. It also is the only tournament he has

played at least four times as a professional without winning.

The par-71, 6,987-yard course has been returned to its original

design by lengthening holes, enlarging several greens and adding

other features.

(

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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