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September 27, 2009

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Late blip limits Woods' lead to one

TIGER Woods wasted a chance to take a commanding lead in the Tour Championship with an untidy finish to Friday's second round, ending a sun-splashed day just one stroke ahead of the chasing pack.

The world No. 1 lipped out with short putts at the 15th and 16th before bogeying the par-three last for a two-under 68 at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia.

That left Woods on five-under 135 in the PGA Tour's fourth and final FedExCup playoff event, a stroke in front of playing partner Padraig Harrington (69) and overnight leader Sean O'Hair (70) of the United States.

South African Ernie Els, boosted by four birdies in five holes from the eighth, was alone in fourth place at three-under after a 66.

"The day as a whole was a good day," Woods told reporters after putting himself in position to clinch the FedExCup for a second time, along with a US$10 million bonus.

"I shot under par and I got myself in the lead. But it was a day in which I hit the ball very well starting out, didn't make any putts and hit everything on the high side."

Woods, champion here in 2007, produced a sizzling three-birdie run from the seventh to go one shot clear.

He then struck a superb five-wood uphill from 247 yards at the par-five 15th to four feet but lipped out with his eagle putt. The tap-in birdie put him two ahead of the field.

Another brilliant approach followed at the 16th, his ball ending up less than four feet from the pin, but Woods again surprisingly lipped out and had to settle for a par four.

Relished playing

Harrington, yet to win this season, relished playing with Woods for the eighth time this year.

"We had a great day out there," the Irishman said after a round featuring three birdies and two bogeys. "We enjoyed it."

Harrington lies sixth in the points standings and would clinch the FedExCup if he won the Tour Championship and top-ranked Woods finished no higher than third.

In Kyoto, Japan's Daisuke Maruyama opened up a four-shot lead after the third round of the Asia-Pacific Open yesterday.

Maruyama, 38, fired a four-under 67 at a sun-baked Joyo Country Club where his three-day total of 11-under 202 is well clear of Korean Kim Kyung-tae, who charged into second place with a superb 66.

Chinese star Liang Wenchong, the Asian Tour No. 1 in 2007, kept himself in the title frame with a battling 69 to lie in tied third place, five back alongside Korean Kim Hyung-sung, who shot a 71 after slipping up with three late bogeys at the US$1.5 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour.

Searching for his first win since 2005, Maruyama, who has one title each on the Asian Tour and Japan, scrambled superbly on the back nine to extend his overnight lead. He made big par saves on the 10th and 12th, draining putts of 25 feet and 20 feet to stay ahead of the chasing pack in a round that included five birdies and one bogey.


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