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Westwood Grabs TPC Lead Before Rain Delay

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Lee Westwood only played seven holes before weather halted Saturday's second round _ again. But it was enough time for him to grab the lead at The Players Championship.

Westwood, who started a shot off Steve Jones' lead, made his fourth birdie of the morning on No. 7 to get to 9 under when the horn sounded _ a regular occurrence this week at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass.

Jones was supposed to tee off at 12:40 p.m. But who knows when the 46-year-old former U.S. Open champion will get the chance to build on his surprising first-round play.

Fog rolled onto the course, thickening as play continued. Right before it came in, golfers had trouble seeing fairways and greens in spots. Even worse, the weekend forecast called for more thunderstorms (rain had already postponed the second round Friday) and the prospect for completing golf's fifth major on time looked bleak.

Already, PGA Tour officials made the rare move of wiping out Friday's play and starting again, giving golfers the chance to lift, clean and place their balls.

Westwood took full advantage. He had a 25-foot birdie on No. 1 and got up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 second, but he joined a long list of players who paid the price for the slightest mistake at Sawgrass' Stadium Course.

He missed the fairway on No. 4, had to pitch out short of the water and then went over the green trying to get to the back hole location. That led to a double bogey, but the Englishman fought back with two birdies, chipping in from just short of the green on No. 7.

He was safely on the green at the par-3 eighth when play was stopped after nearly four hours.

Vijay Singh, three shots off lead at the round's start, didn't give himself many birdie opportunities but was still 6 under for his round until the 18th devoured him. Taking an aggressive line over the water, his tee shot failed to reach land. He reloaded, then found water again. And when he missed a 10-foot putt, the Fijian had a quadruple-bogey 8.

That dropped him 31 spots on the leaderboard, from a tie for fifth to a tie for 36th.

Zach Johnson also fought to the top in his brief time on the course. He caught Jones with birdies on the first and second holes. After his own double-bogey on No. 4, he recovered with birdies on No. 7 and No. 9, landing a wedge a foot from the pin for birdie to get to 8-under.

It was the first time since the first round of the 2001 BellSouth Classic that a round had to be scratched.

As expected, the decision affected everyone differently.

Ernie Els faced a 12-foot bogey putt when play was stopped Friday morning. He got to start over, and had a 12-foot birdie putt on his ``mulligan.'' He missed for par, and played listlessly the rest of the way, taking double bogey on No. 6 when his approach from the rough landed next to a palm tree, and he had to chip into a bunker.

The second round was suspended Friday after 44 minutes because of rain.

With another stoppage, the best the $8 million tournament could hope for was completing the second round Saturday, then having a slightly shorter field try to squeeze in 36 holes on Sunday.

But a Monday finish appeared likely _ the first in the 31-year history of the tournament _ and the first Tuesday finish in 25 years on the PGA Tour was not out of the question.

Along with restarting the second round, tournament officials were changing some hole locations to higher ground on the greens to avoid puddles.

It was a strange turn of events, but not this year.

Late Friday afternoon, PGA Tour tournament director Mark Russell sat before a microphone fielding questions about weather problems.

``I believe we've had this conversation on the West Coast,'' said Russell, who has made more trips to the press center this year than Singh.

Seven of the 13 tournaments this season have been mucked up by the weather _ from heavy rain at the season-opening Mercedes Championship in Hawaii to fog and floods in California to heavy rain last week at Bay Hill.

``Let's hope we're getting it out of our system,'' Russell said.

Maybe. Maybe not.

While Russell spoke, an overhead TV flashed The Weather Channel's ominous forecast _ thunderstorms Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

``Everybody has got to fight it,'' said Fred Funk, who fell two shots to 5 under for the tournament Saturday. ``It has been frustrating for everybody this year, media, players, officials, TV. It's been real frustrating for us to get these tournaments in.''

Russell said the greens and bunkers, rebuilt since the last Players Championship to improve drainage, held up well through a three-10ths of an inch of rain Friday. But several fairways were ``basically, just filled to capacity.''

Russell stressed that everything would be done to get in 72 holes, unlike the Nissan Open at the Riviera Country Club. That was shortened to 36 holes and won in a one-hole playoff by Adam Scott.

If that meant playing Tuesday, Russell said that was a consideration. The last Tuesday finish? The 1980 Joe Garagiola-Tucson Open.
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