Tiger rallies to make 129th straight cut

HAVEN, Wis. -- From top to bottom, the PGA Championship
delivered some major drama Friday.

The two best players battled across Whistling Straits until
Vijay Singh wound up in a share of the lead and Ernie Els settled
in one shot behind.

The No. 1 player fought just to make the cut.

"I gave it everything I had," Tiger Woods said after three
birdies over his final six holes spared him the embarrassment of
going home early for the first time in 129 tournaments and the
first ever as a professional in a major.

Desperate to end an 0-for-18 streak in the majors, Singh kept
his mistakes to a minimum on another mild day along the shores of
Lake Michigan, shooting a 4-under 68 to join Justin Leonard atop
the leaderboard.

Despite blunders on the par 5s, Els and Darren Clarke stayed
right on their heels.

Briny Baird also was one shot behind, winless in 102 starts on
the PGA Tour, which makes him a perfect candidate to win the final
major. Thirteen of the last 16 winners at the PGA Championship had
never won a major, and three had never won at all on tour.

By the time thousands of fans staggered off the sand dunes
lining the fairways on the links-style course, they surely
anticipated what figured to be a wild weekend with so much at stake
for so many players:

  • For Singh and Els, a chance to supplant Woods at No. 1 in the

  • For Leonard and Chris DiMarco, hopes of making the Ryder Cup

  • For Woods, a shot -- albeit a long one -- to end his 0-for-9
    drought in the majors.

    The leaderboard was loaded with big names, all of them on top of
    their games on a Whistling Straits course that again failed to
    scare them, despite playing all of its 7,514 yards.

    Leonard, who must win to have any chance of making the Ryder Cup
    team, holed a couple of 25-foot birdie putts in a solid round of 69
    that put him at 9-under 135 and in the final group Saturday with

    Els had control of the tournament with four birdies on his first
    10 holes to reach 10 under, but he let it slip away with a couple
    of wayward drives on the par 5s, making bogey on both of them for a

    Clarke was among four players tied for the lead at one point
    late in the round, despite misunderstanding his caddie and aiming
    at the wrong television tower on the par-5 11th, leading to a
    comical journey through some of Whistling Straits' 1,400 bunkers
    and giving him a double bogey.

    He wound up with a 71 and was at 136 along with Els and Baird

    And while Woods was lucky to simply stick around, he wasn't
    counting himself out at even-par 144.

    "The leaders didn't go too far away," he said. "Hopefully, I
    can shoot one of the scores they shot and put myself back in the
    ball game."

    Even so, the guys he is chasing seem to be playing a different

    Singh, who has struggled the past two years when paired with
    Woods, beat him by eight shots in the opening round and showed him
    how to get it done again on Friday. He kept the ball in play off
    the tee, making his only two bogeys when his drives strayed into
    the bunkers and tall fescue. And he looks silky with the putter.

    Despite winning eight times in the last two years and again
    leading the PGA Tour money list, Singh has let chances slip away at
    the majors. He last won one at the 2000 Masters.

    "I've been in position to win majors, but I haven't finished
    the job," he said. "I feel my game is coming around because my
    putting has improved. This is another opportunity."

    It's also another chance for Leonard at the PGA. He was tied for
    the lead going into the final round at Winged Foot in 1997 but lost
    by five to Davis Love III. Two years ago at Hazeltine, he had a
    three-shot lead on Sunday and shot 77 to finish tied for fourth.

    "I tend to learn more in failure than I do in success,"
    Leonard said.

    Els knows the feeling.

    Second at the Masters. A playoff loser at the British Open. An
    80 from the final group at the U.S. Open.

    The Big Easy is back with another chance, this one looking as
    good as any. He holed 25-foot birdie putts on two of the first
    three holes and was cruising along when his sand wedge from the
    rough on No. 10 stopped 8 feet away from another birdie.

    A good break, however, led to a big mistake.

    After badly pulling his tee shot left on the par-5 16th, Els got
    a good lie and decided to go for the green. He hit it so far left
    it nearly went into the lake, catching a small bunker. He went into
    another bunker short of the green and took bogey to lose a share of
    the lead.

    Els is thinking only of adding the the third leg of the Grand
    Slam, not about another season of major disappointment.

    "I've never been scared of losing," he said. "I'm here to do
    as well as I can. If I play to my ability, I should have a chance

    Clarke lost his first-round lead quickly on the par-5 11th when
    he followed his caddie's instruction and aimed his second shot at
    the television tower. Only when his ball was in the air did Clarke
    realize they were looking at different targets.

    "He said, 'You do know which TV tower I was talking about,
    don't you?' " Clarke said. "I said, 'Yeah, the one on the right.'
    And he said, 'No, it was the one on the left.' It was all my fault.
    I didn't really pay that much attention."

    Better yet, he didn't lose his cool after the double bogey and
    recovered with five birdies the rest of the way.

    DiMarco holed out from the 14th fairway and shot 70, putting him
    at 6-under 138 and making him the leader of the tournament within
    the tournament -- making the Ryder Cup team. A two-way tie for
    eighth Sunday and DiMarco is almost certain to qualify by finishing
    in the top 10 in the standings.

    K.J. Choi overcame a triple bogey on No. 4, his 12th hole of the
    round, when he lost his ball in the left rough. He still managed a
    71 and was in the large group at 5-under 139.

    But some of the biggest dramatics belonged to Woods.

    He was off his game and could not afford any more mistakes. From
    just short of the 10th green, he hit a full flop shot that landed 3
    feet from the flag to save par. Then he holed a 10-footer for par
    on the 11th.

    Still one shot over the cut after his birdie on the 13th, Woods
    needed to find the fairway on the par-5 16th and delivered his best
    drive of the day, setting up a two-putt birdie. And when he holed a
    bending, 25-foot birdie on the 17th for breathing room, he lightly
    tapped his fists as he walked toward the cup.

    The cut was at 1-over 145. Among those who won't be around are
    Love (79-69) and Mike Weir (73-73), who each missed a cut in a
    major for the second time this year.