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Azinger Has Lead, Memories

June 02, 2001|From Associated Press

Paul Azinger's most dramatic moment in golf came at the Memorial eight years ago when he dropped a shot in from a greenside bunker to defeat his close friend, Payne Stewart. He talked fondly about it the day before this year's Memorial in a ceremony honoring Stewart.

Then he went out and began trying to win a tournament that means so much to him.

Azinger grabbed the second-round lead with five consecutive birdies on the back nine Friday for a 67 to move a shot ahead of Vijay Singh in the rain-plagued event at Dublin, Ohio.

Tiger Woods was just two shots back after a 69 that he finished in cold and near darkness. Woods was tied with first round co-leader Chris Smith and Sergio Garcia at seven under par.

"I needed to put myself into a position where I didn't have too many shots to make up if it is a 54-hole event," Woods said.

A morning downpour suspended play for two hours and players were allowed to lift, clean and place their balls. A few players were unable to finish and will have to return early today to complete their rounds. However, more rain is forecast for today.

Azinger, who beat cancer discovered the year after he won here in 1993, had a big task this year. He gave the speech when the tournament made Stewart its honoree.

No sooner had Azinger completed a 31 on the back nine than he rejected suggestions that somehow this was his tournament to win because of his relationship with Stewart, who died in a 1999 plane accident.

"I'm not into all that mystical stuff," Azinger said.

Woods had problems again with the par-four third hole. He improved from his double bogey the day before but still made bogey after hitting it into the greenside bunker.

Woods had a chance to get it back but a balky putter wouldn't allow him to go on a streak like the one he had Thursday, when he made two eagles and two birdies in the final eight holes.

He hit an iron 246 yards within six feet of the hole on the par-five fifth, then pulled his eagle putt left, prompting him to shout an expletive loud enough for the large crowd to hear.

Sammy Rachels and Allen Doyle shot six-under-par 66s on a soggy course and shared a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the BellSouth Senior Classic at Nashville, Tenn.

Tom Kite, Tony Mauney, Howard Twitty, Joe Inman and Tom Wargo were at 67. Jose Maria Canizares, Dana Quigley and Jim Ahern had 68s.

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