Woods goes low at Jack's place

A 63 on Friday by the Tiger sets the pace around Muirfield Village...but Els is in close pursuit

PGA Tour
Sat, 27 May 2000

With no wind, there was no need for Tiger Woods to play it safe Friday in the Memorial Tournament.

One day after he tiptoed his way across Muirfield Village, Woods attacked a vulnerable course and shot 9-under 63, closing with a chip-in for par and two tap-in birdies that gave him a one-stroke lead over Harrison Frazar.

On a warm, lazy day, Woods came to life with four straight birdies on the front nine, then really brought the gallery to its feet with a finish that put him in great position to become the first repeat champion in the 25-year history of the tournament.

After a delicate blast from the sand barely climbed out of the bunker on the par-3 16th, he holed the chip for par, pointing his finger at the cup as the ball disappeared.

A 9-iron into No. 17 stopped a foot from the hole, and his 6-iron into the 18th spun back some 15 feet before settling about 18 inches from the cup for another birdie.

Through 36 holes, Woods was at 10-under 134.

"I hit a few solid shots, made a few putts here and there, and it came out to 63," Woods said, shrugging his shoulders with a smile.

The way he's been playing, perhaps a 63 is rather routine.

Until then, the best round of an easy day for scoring belonged to Ernie Els, who holed two bunker shots for birdie in a round of 64 that shot him into contention at 7-under 137.

Because of a storm system expected Saturday afternoon, the third round will feature threesomes going off on both tees about three hours early with hopes of finishing around 3 p.m. CBS Sports will televise the round on tape delay.

That puts Woods and Els together again for the first time since their sensational, season-opening show in Hawaii at the Mercedes Championships, where they each made eagle on the 72nd hole and Woods won on the second playoff hole with a 40-foot birdie putt.

Els came close in The Masters, then squandered a lead the next week at the MCI Classic. He hasn't won in over a year, but his game looks like it's rounding into form with the U.S. Open just three weeks away.

"The way I'm playing, I've got to think about winning now," Els said. "I've got to go out there and do my thing. I've got a lot of chances to come, but I'll try to take the first chance that comes my way."

Canadian Mike Weir (65) was among five players at 5-under 139, while Gary Nicklaus played another solid round (68) and was another stroke back, hopeful for a memorable weekend in the tournament his father founded when he was still in grade school.

Jack Nicklaus, despite bogeys on the final two holes, had a 73, but that was just enough to get in two more rounds on the weekend.

Without the wind, Muirfield played three strokes easier than the first round as 54 players broke par, compared to just 18 on Thursday.

No one had a round quite like Woods.

Frazar was already in with a 69 and comfortably leading when Woods teed off.

"I saw some of the numbers guys were putting up and I said, 'I'd like to get into the mix of that.' And I was able to do that," Woods said. "You could go ahead and attack."

It began with four straight birdies, starting on the par-5 fifth. Wood missed a 4-foot birdie on the par-5 11th, but that only seemed to get him going as his irons began tracking to the flags like lasers.

"I've always been a player who could string shots together," Woods said. "Once I get going, I tend to keep it going."

His only threat of bogey came on No. 16, where a nearly perfect bunker shot came up 6 inches short of its intended target and stayed in the first cut.

"I figured I had some pretty good luck around this golf course chipping in," said Woods, who holed a chip in the final round last year on his way to a two-stroke victory. "I figured I might as well chip this in."

Woods and Els will also get the company of Frazar, who had it at 10 under until a bogey late in the round dropped him to 135.

Frazar gave up golf after college because he figured if he couldn't beat his childhood pal and University of Texas roommate -- Justin Leonard -- then how was he going to compete against the best in the world?

"I didn't know that he (Leonard) was going to become one of the best players in the world," Frazar said.

Frazar left the real estate development business, went from the BUY.COM TOUR to the big leagues in two years and has proven to himself that he finally belongs. One thing that has helped is hanging out with proven stars -- Leonard, Davis Love III and Fred Couples.

"You want to go to dinner with people that are talking about the putts they made, not the ones they missed," Frazar said. "You want to go to dinner with people that are talking about what it felt like when they won a tournament, not when they fell apart and missed the cut."

In that case, he can't argue with who will join him for brunch on the first tee Saturday.



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