Close call leaves Woods tied for record but leading at PGA

TULSA, Okla. &

One of the best parts of golf is how cruel it can be, even to the world's greatest player.

Tiger Woods rapped his 62nd shot of the day toward the hole and started lifting his putter in celebration, thinking the ball was headed in and he would stand alone with one of the sport's most hallowed records.

The ball spun around the back of the cup, ducked completely inside for a split second, then suddenly, cruelly, came spitting back out.

And so, Tiger settled for a 63 on Friday, tying with 20 other players for the best score ever in a major and ending the second round of the PGA Championship only two shots ahead instead of three.

For a man who often contends with history as much as with the other players in the field, it's hard to imagine that stroke will make a difference once this weekend is over.

But when you're that close, it's hard to let it go. Woods showed as much when he dropped his putter in dismay as the putt rimmed out to leave him at 6-under 134 for the tournament.

"It would've been nice to have gotten a record and a three-shot lead going into the weekend," he said. "But the good thing is, I hit a good putt. That's the important part."

Woods is 7-0 in majors when he enters the weekend with at least a share of the lead. If he holds on again, he'll avert being shut out in the majors in 2007 and will win his 13th major to move within five of Jack Nicklaus and the record he wants the most.

"You know you'll have to play well," said Geoff Ogilvy, who at 3-under par is the only major winner within five shots of Woods. "He's the best front-runner in history."

Closest to Woods is Scott Verplank (4-under 136), an Oklahoma State grad who will see exactly how strong his college ties are when he tees off last with Woods on Saturday.

Verplank spent the first two rounds hearing a lot of "Go Pokes" and "Go Cowboys" from the local fans. But usually guys who play with Tiger simply get lost in the commotion.

"Scotty's a friend of mine and I'm looking forward to it," Woods said. "He played another good round of golf, as always. He hits the ball very straight and is one of the best putters out here."

Far be it for Woods to overlook anyone. Despite his flirtation with the record, he wasn't making this sound like a done deal, even though others surely think it is.

"How," John Daly asked, "do you cool Tiger off?"

Friday's round began with Woods sharing top billing with Daly, one of the few players out there who can collect as big a crowd.

It was good theater as always, starting at the first shot, when the two-time major champ waited for the green to clear on the 10th hole, a 366-yard par-4 with a sharp dogleg right. Other players might hit iron. Daly was itching to hit the big dog.

He actually hit that driver pin high &

but in the rough near a medical tent. He scraped his way to bogey there and shot 3-over 73, which means he'll be around for the weekend for what figures to be an entirely different kind of entertainment than Woods will provide.

"The fairways are just so hard to hit," Daly said. "I just kept grinding, grinding, grinding."

That's the same kind of thing Woods would say, except his grinding comes with an unwavering discipline that puts him in position to do things like he did on this historic day.

He opened with an 8-iron to 6 feet for birdie to begin his ride up the leaderboard.

Coming off his lone bogey at No. 7 when he caught an awkward stance in the bunker, Woods stuffed his approach into 2 feet on the ninth and — feet on the 10th to get within one shot of the lead.

He found another bunker at No. 12 and blasted out some 30 feet by the pin. He started walking to the side when his par putt broke toward the cup and pumped his fist when it curled in the right side.

"The putt on 12 was huge to keep the round going," Woods said.

Then came a charge into the lead and into the record books. He got up-and-down from a bunker at the par-5 13th for birdie, chipped in from 15 feet from just behind the green at No. 14 and holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the 15th.

Needing one more birdie over the final three holes, Woods gave himself three good chances, especially on 18.

"It would have been a nice little record to have," Woods said. "A 62&

194;1/2 is all right."

Only eight players finished below par, including Stephen Ames (69) at 137, Woody Austin (70) at 138, John Senden (70), Niclas Fasth (68) and Pat Perez (69) at 139. Ernie Els (68) joined Daly in a group of six at 140.

Austin was candid after his strong round, knowing it was good, but included too many missed putts for someone trying to break through for his first major victory.

"I don't have that luxury," he said. "There is somebody that has that luxury but it's not me."

A bit later, "somebody" took to the course and proved Austin right.

Not every putt had to fall for it to be a great round.

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