Woods Leads by Three at Dunlop Phoenix

Friday, November 19th 2004, 6:53 am
By: News On 6

MIYAZAKI, Japan (AP) _ Tiger Woods fired a 3-under 67 on Friday to maintain his three-stroke lead after the second round of the Dunlop Phoenix. Woods was 8 under through 36 holes at the $1.89 million tournament, the richest on the Japanese tour. Japan's Kaname Yokoo also shot a 67 and was three strokes off the pace, followed by American Christian Pena, who was four back.

``Things are starting to come together,'' Woods said. ``For the past three or four months I've been a little more at ease making shots and consequently the scores are getting better.''

The best round of the day belonged to Pena, who fired a 63 that included eight birdies and a bogey at the Phoenix Country Club.

``I'm looking forward to playing with Tiger,'' said Pena, a regular on the Japan Tour. ``It'll be my first time and I'm a big fan of his.''

Woods, who lost his No. 1 ranking to Vijay Singh two months ago, carded his first birdie on the par-5 fourth hole. Woods made birdie on the par-4 13th, a dog leg left.

``I just tried to put the ball short of the green,'' he said. ``I didn't want to go above the hole. On this course it's important to stay below the hole.''

Woods had a bogey on the par-4 16th. His second shot landed in the greenside bunker and he blasted out to 12 feet before two-putting. Going back to 2002, it was his first bogey in 56 holes at this tournament.

``I didn't want it to stop,'' Woods said. ``It's not as though I was trying to make a bogey on 16. Anytime you can play that many holes without a bogey you're doing well.''

The 28-year-old Woods has struggled this year. His only victory was at the Accenture Match Play Championship in February. He has eight career major titles, but none since the 2002 U.S. Open.

Woods is looking for his first victory in Japan. He finished eighth in this tournament two years ago. His other appearances in Japan include a 15th-place finish at the Casio World Open in 1998 and second place at the 2001 World Cup, when he paired with David Duval.

The last time Woods won a stroke-play tournament was the American Express Championship in October 2003.

After steady rain Thursday, the skies cleared Friday, but Woods said the greens were fairly slow.

``The rains changed everything,'' he said. ``The greens are so soft and that's why guys are able to shoot good scores.''

Defending champion Thomas Bjorn of Denmark shot a 69 and was tied for 32nd at 4-over 144. British Open champion Todd Hamilton of the United States had a 76 and just made the cut set at 149.