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Charlie Wi leads by three after second round at Pebble Beach

Wi, who remembers playing Tiger Woods as a youth, holds a three-stroke lead over second-place Dustin Johnson.

February 10, 2012|By Diane Pucin

Reporting from Pebble Beach — Charlie Wi was born in Seoul but spent much of his childhood in Los Angeles. And it was in Long Beach where Wi remembers first playing against Tiger Woods.

Wi was 13, Woods was 9, and Wi remembers Woods being angry when he didn't birdie a particularly long par-three. "He got so mad. That always stuck with me, 9 years old at El Dorado" golf course, Wi said. "He probably doesn't remember, but I was going, man, come on."

It was a memory lane trip for Wi because here he is at Pebble Beach, 40 years old now, without a PGA Tour win but with the second-round lead at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Wi shot a second-round 69 Friday at the Pebble Beach Course and has a two-round score of 12-under 130, good for a three-shot lead over second-place Dustin Johnson, the 2009 and 2010 winner here, after his 72 Friday at Spyglass Hill.

Woods, who has 71 career victories compared to Wi's zero, is tied for 17th, six shots behind.

Instead of sharing happy memories about the good old days at El Dorado, Woods spoke about jamming his right wrist on the eighth hole of his round of 68 at Monterey Peninsula.

"It hurt like [heck] when I did it," said Woods, who is playing his first PGA Tour event of the season. "Once I popped it back in, it was good. It was just a joint. No big deal. The problem was … I was in a divot on an uphill slope and it was a tough combo."

Woods was as low as seven-under during the day and tied for 10th at one point. He said he was happy with how he was hitting the ball. "I just didn't give myself the exact right looks today. I was above the hole or had some downhill breaking putts. I just needed to leave myself below the hole."

It took Woods 33 putts to finish Friday's round. He said he needs to do better than that. "I need to make a couple of putts to get on a roll," he said.

Wi's round Friday was punctuated by the kind of mind-bending, crowd-popping shot more associated with Woods. On the par-four 13th hole, Wi slammed a wedge 118 yards and into the cup for an eagle two.

Wi described the shot without braggadocio. "I was fortunate enough to have it go in," he said.

This is Wi's 163rd career PGA Tour start and he said that even though he might have beaten Woods when he was 13, he has doubted himself. "A lot," he said. "When things don't go well, I always got down on myself very easy. I feel like I'm getting over that hump."

There's a reason Wi is leading here so far. He's tied for first in fairways hit. He's third in putting.

He is also not suddenly brimming with confidence. "The next two days are going to be very tough because there are going to be a lot of demons and doubts," said Wi, who went to Westlake High and also played a year of golf at California after transferring from Nevada Reno.

But still, though he's in first place and six shots ahead of Woods, Wi was honest.

"I wish I was Tiger Woods," he said. "But I'm not. I'm Charlie Wi."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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