Curtis, Furyk lead but Tiger, Singh gaining

Updated: July 3, 2005, 7:09 PM ET
Associated Press

LEMONT, Ill. -- Jim Furyk won a major championship in 2003. So did Ben Curtis.

Furyk hasn't won a title since that summer. Neither has Curtis.

Now both are atop the leaderboard at the Western Open, each hoping to end a drought that's brought similar frustrations, for very different reasons.

Curtis capped his second bogey-free round of the week with a 3-footer for birdie on 18 Saturday, joining Furyk for the lead. Curtis (66) and Furyk (67) are at 12-under 201 after 54 holes.

"I've played with him quite a bit over the last couple of years, so I've gotten to know his game very well," Curtis said. "It's very solid and there's no weaknesses, so I look for him to shoot a good round. That means for me to win, I'm going to have to shoot a good round."

Don't overlook the rest of the pack, though. Seven players are within six strokes of the leaders -- including the two best in the world.

Tiger Woods shot a 4-under 67 and is tied for fourth with Shaun Micheel at 206, five strokes back. Vijay Singh flirted with the course record of 63 before settling for a 6-under 65 that leaves him six strokes off the lead.

"At least I've got a shot going into tomorrow," Woods said. "Hopefully those guys don't run away from it. If they don't put up three or four more birdies, I should be all right."

Curtis has struggled since winning the British Open at Royal St. George's. He's been winless since, and had just one top-10 finish last year. This is only the third cut he's made this season.

Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champ, hasn't won since the Buick Open that same year. Granted, he did miss half of last year after having wrist surgery. But he's been runner-up three times this year, including a heartbreaking loss to Padraig Harrington at the Barclays Classic last weekend.

"Second kind of stinks," Furyk said. "I put it to rest Monday and tried to come here with a very fresh attitude, knowing that I like this golf course, knowing that I was playing very well. And obviously I was able to do that."

Furyk's big break came on the par-5 15th. Stuck at 10 under since No. 9, he had a 30-footer for eagle. The ball rolled slowly toward the cup and looked as if it might stop short. But it dropped in, drawing a roar from the crowd.

"It was a downhill putt that I knew was going to get to the hole, I was just trying to get the right pace," Furyk said. "You get a bonus getting one of those long ones to go in."

Then it was up to the rest of the crowd to try and match him. Curtis had gotten to 11 under with a birdie on 14, but he missed a chance for another on 15 when his putt stopped 3 feet short.

On his last hole, he got within 3 feet of the pin on 18 and rolled it in.

"So far three good rounds, hopefully I can add a fourth to it," Curtis said. "We'll go out there and see what can happen. I'm not going to try to put any pressure on myself, just go out and have fun and enjoy the whole experience."

The fans have certainly warmed to him -- though his choice of clothes might have something to do with it. Curtis has an endorsement deal for NFL apparel, and he's broken out Chicago Bears shirts and visors the last two days.

"I've heard a few Colts fans, a few Packers fans," Curtis said. "But for the most part, everybody here is a Bears fan."

There are plenty of Tiger fans here, too, and they liked what they saw from him Saturday.

Woods made things interesting when he birdied Nos. 6, 7 and 8 and then headed to what he calls the three easiest holes on the course. But he ran birdie putts past the hole on both 9 and 10, then watched helplessly as a 25-footer broke about a foot in front of the cup on 11.

As the crowd groaned, Woods sank to his knees.

"If I would have gotten somewhere near 10, it would have been great, but I didn't quite get there," he said. "I got it to 7, which is fine."

Singh made up for his lousy first two rounds, flirting with the course record of 63 after getting to 7 under on 13. He rolled in an 8-footer for his fourth birdie in five holes.

He couldn't keep the momentum going, though. On the green in two on the par-5 15th, he missed a 20-footer for eagle and wound up three-putting. He bogeyed the 16th when his 3-foot par putt slid by on the left edge of the cup.

"I would have loved to be at 8 instead of 6," Singh said. "It kind of takes a lot of air out of you because you really play hard to get into position and then you let it go. The same thing happened last week. You get into position and make two bogeys and then all of a sudden instead of two or three back, you're six or seven back."

Divots
Olympic softball star Jennie Finch was in the crowd. ... Local favorite Luke Donald had another rough day, shooting a 2-over 73 that put him at plus-2 for the tournament. ... Attendance on Saturday was 46,849. ... Third-round leader Chris Couch struggled to a 3-over 74.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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