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PGA Tour Vet Mediate Leads Phoenix

January 30, 1999

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ Rocco Mediate quietly got ahead of everybody in the Phoenix Open. Now he has to contend with Tiger Woods.

Woods shot a 4-under-par 67 on Friday, enough to take a temporary one-stroke lead. It lasted a few hours until Mediate carded his own 67 to move two shots ahead.

Mediate was with the last threesome to finish before play was suspended for a second straight day with golfers still on the course. He parred the last three holes for a 6-under 136 at the midpoint.

Woods was one of the 45 golfers who finished the first round Friday before starting the second round. Then, early starters were held up again because of frost on the greens, and play was curtailed at the end.

Fifty-one players were stranded on the course Friday. They must finish Saturday before those who make the cut can begin the third round.

Based on the placement of 80 finishers, David Duval made the cut at 145, but it will take all of his January magic to get back into contention with Woods, the only player ranked above him in the world.

Woods said he doesn’t mind the rivalry with Duval, who has won nine of his last 28 tournaments, including his first two this year. Woods is trying to snap a 12-tournament PGA victory drought.

``I’m just going out there to trying to win a tournament,″ the 23-year-old Woods said. ``I’m playing hard and see what happens. He’s going to do exactly the same thing. I know he and I don’t really make it our life to be No. 1 in the world.″

Woods is the obvious favorite of Phoenix’s noisy galleries, and he started his strong performance with a birdie on No. 16, where his hole-in-one two years ago touched off a beercup-throwing, fist-pumping celebration almost unheard-of in golf.

He also birdied the 18th hole for a first-round 71. Then he recovered from an early bogey to birdie five of the last 10 holes of the second round for his 138.

``They tend to move quicker to the next tee,″ Woods said about the throngs who jostle for vantage points when he’s playing. ``Especially if I can rattle two or three in a row. Then they start moving quick. If I’m really playing well, they start running.″

Hal Sutton and Jonathan Kaye were three shots off the pace at 139, with Jim Furyk and Franklin Langham at 141 and defending champion Jesper Parnevik, Kenny Perry and Stuart Appleby at 142.

Kaye, a Phoenix resident who earned his tour card by finishing second at qualifying school last year, had a 67 to Sutton’s second-round 70.

Langham, Lee Janzen, Payne Stewart, Paul Azinger and Gabriel Hjertstedt also reached 4-under during the day.

All but Hjertstedt, who reached 4-under as play was called, fell back on the 7,083-yard course, toughened with longer rough and tricky pin placements.

First-round leader Justin Leonard, who had the only 67 on Thursday, gave back seven shots in 14 holes, starting with a double bogey on the second hole. He was 3-over for the tournament.

``He’s driving the ball in the rough, period,″ Mediate said. ``I guarantee you he’s not hitting any fairways. That’s the only way you can do that, especially him, as good as he is around the greens.″

Mediate likes the harsh conditions because he doesn’t feel he can shoot 26-under scores like Duval did in the Mercedes Championships and the Bob Hope, but considers 12-under within reach.

Duval hadn’t been over par in nine rounds this year until he opened with a 74 here.

Mediate, a 13-year veteran with two career victories, hasn’t won since 1993 and had only two top 10 finishes last season. But he got hot as the shadows lengthened. He birdied the 10th hole to catch up with Woods and the 14th and 15th to move ahead.

``I knew when I got to 4-under that I was close, and I saw the leaderboard for a while,″ he said. ``I knew I was tied. Then I knew I was leading by two. It was kind of fun. I still had three holes to play, and anything could happen on those holes. It was fun finishing like that.″

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