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Garcia slips, but keeps his grip on lead

The Baltimore Sun

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- On an often-gorgeous day rife with often un-gorgeous golf, it took a steady hand to keep his wits and the lead.

That would be Sergio Garcia, who, at 27, is playing in his 36th major tournament. He left the premises yesterday with the same two-shot lead he had brought along for his 9 a.m. tee time.

His even-par 71 lacked the sparkle of his first-round 65, but with most of the players below him plunging even more precipitously, and with Tiger Woods' deficit swelling from four shots to seven, the 71 began to look shiny.

"That was not a bad round," Garcia said in summary.

With everybody on the Firth of Tay anticipating some real Scottish weather today after two days of nothing worse than drizzle and chill, there was even a little sunshine, and Garcia joked: "Well, it's been so good the last couple of days, I felt like I was in Spain. No, you've just got to deal with it."

One day after 12 players scored in the 60s, only two could pull it off, both of them moving up the board. One of the hottest players in golf, K.J. Choi, shot 69 and took over second place at 4-under-par, two behind Garcia, while a player who tied for 20th in both the Masters and the U.S. Open, Mike Weir, shot 68 to climb from 25th to third, joining Spain's 43-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez at three shots behind Garcia.

That meant the top of the board belonged to players from Spain, South Korea, Spain and Canada, in an event Americans have claimed six of the past seven years, half those titles earned by Woods. After yesterday, the leading Americans sat four shots behind Garcia: Jim Furyk, one of the favorites coming in, and Boo Weekley, not one of the favorites coming in.

Playing only his second major, and in Europe for the first time, Weekley, a 33-year-old from the Florida Panhandle, added a 72 to Thursday's 68, then said of the food here: "It's rough. It's different eating here than it is at the house. Ain't got no sweet tea and ain't got no fried chicken."

With Carnoustie's No. 18 famous for Jean Van de Velde's victory-squandering move in 1999, the hole that mattered yesterday was as far away from that as possible, all the way back to the start.

There, early on, from just to the left of the green, Garcia preserved momentum with a chip that rolled to within about 2 feet for a one-putt par. And on the first tee, Woods began with a third straight title thoroughly feasible.

But his drive flew left and into the Barry Burn. He wound up with a double bogey and eventually with a 1-over 74, seven shots behind Garcia.

"But still not out of it," he said.

Chuck Culpepper writes for the Los Angeles Times.

Leader board

The leader ...

Sergio Garcia 65-71-136 -6

... and selected followers

K.J. Choi 69-69-138 -4

Miguel Angel Jimenez 69-70-139 -3

Mike Weir 71-68-139 -3

Jim Furyk 70-70-140 -2

Boo Weekley 68-72-140 -2

Retief Goosen 70-71-141 -1

Tiger Woods 69-74-143 +1

Phil Mickelson 71-77-148 DNQ

Full scoreboard, PG 2C

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