Woods leads by two in Ireland

Sept. 20, 2002 at 3:47 PM
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THOMASTOWN, Ireland, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Seeking the $1 million top prize at a tournament boasting an elite field, Tiger Woods carded his second straight 7-under-par 65 Friday at Mount Juliet Estate to take a two-stroke lead after the second round of the American Express Championship.

The performance of golf's best player at the World Golf Championships event bodes well for an American team trying to reclaim the Ryder Cup next week at The Belfry in England.

But Woods is not ready to talk about next week's activities.

"I enjoy playing," he said. "I don't enjoy the other stuff leading up to it."

Woods is enjoying his stay in Ireland, shooting a course record for the second straight day and taking a two-shot lead over Jerry Kelly into the weekend with a 36-hole total of 14-under 130.

"All in all, very pleased with the way I'm playing," said Woods, who is seeking his fifth PGA Tour win of the year.

Kelly also is pleased, especially after setting up another marquee pairing with Woods. He birdied four of his first five holes and three of the final four en route to a 65 and a two-round total of 12-under 132.

At last year's Players Championship, Kelly was the surprise 54-hole leader and Woods' playing partner on Sunday, but he tied for fourth with a final-round 73. Woods won by a stroke.

"I've got to play my own game and just play as well as I can and see what happens," said Kelly, whose only two career titles have come this season.

David Toms and Steve Lowery both shot 67s and were tied for third at 11-under 133. Retief Goosen of South Africa was at 134, with countryman Ernie Els, Stuart Appleby of Australia and England's Gary Evans at 136.

David Duval matched the course record with a 65 and was in a group of eight players tied for ninth at 136.

The field for this World Golf Championship event features 49 of the top 50 players in the World Golf Rankings and the top 20 on the leaderboard broke 70 Friday. Woods said the low scores were a testament to Mount Juliet's greens.

"They're absolutely perfect," he said. "You can have 20-, 30-footers and feel confident you can make that putt."

Woods also said the course may be too easy for the field. The fairways are wide and the rough is not too penalizing, giving the best players in the world an opportunity to be aggressive into the accepting greens.

"The bigger the tournament, the harder they should make the golf course," said Woods, citing U.S. Open venues as an example. "I think it's a lot more fun when you can play tournaments like that."

Kelly recently overcame a bout of dehydration, which led to a problem with his setup position. That caused him to miss the cut in three of five starts after his win at the Western Open in July.

"My health, my mental (approach) and my game were about as poor as I've been in a long time," he said. "It got so bad, I had no clue what I was doing, absolutely no clue."

That was not the case Friday, when Kelly opened with a pair of birdie putts, including a 30-footer at the par-4 second. He made the putt after a cameraman took a shot during his backswing.

"I looked over as the ball was going in the hole," said Kelly, who is of Irish descent. "I said, 'You're lucky.' That was kind of fun."

Kelly added a 20-footer at the fourth and birdied the fifth to continue his good start. He still was 4-under for the day before he sank three consecutive birdie putts, beginning and ending with 10-footers at Nos. 15 and 17.

"Ireland is being good to this Irishman," he said.

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