BETHESDA, Md. (AP) Tiger Woods displayed his full repertoire of near-miss reactions: the putter flip, the 360-degree spin with head to the sky, the drop to his knees, and head bowed with hands on knees.
His mammoth gallery settled on just one way to react: the very loud moan.
That's what happens when the host of the tournament has six birdie putts that stop less than a foot from the hole and two more that settle less than 2 feet away. Woods' 69 Saturday at the AT&T National looks boring on the surface 15 pars and only two birdies but the sights and sounds told the story of a round that was inches away from being something spectacular.
"I turned a 63 or 64 into a 69 very smoothly," Woods said.
"It's frustrating, it really is," Woods said. "There's no denying that. When you hit good putts and you think they are looking dead center, they kind of wander left or right, it is frustrating. And that's the way it goes sometimes. You have to be patient, which I was all day. I'm still in the ballgame."
Many groups behind the Woods hoopla, Stuart Appleby roller-coastered his way to a two-stroke lead. The Aussie, playing with a hairline crack in his driver, made five birdies and three bogeys in a 2-under round of 68 for a 201 total, putting him in position to win the event that bears the name of his good friend and neighbor in Orlando, Fla.
"I'm not concerned who honors an event or who titles an event or anything," said Appleby, seeking his ninth tour victory and first of 2007. "Because winning, once you've won or had a drought, it feels great. And not winning feels a little shallow and empty. So if I could join all the good feelings in winning and with Tiger, his inaugural event I'm sure I'll let him know. He'll be back at me, trust me. He's got a quick tongue."
Second-place K.J. Choi is two strokes off the lead. Choi trailed Appleby by five following a bogey at the 14th, but birdied the next three holes to shoot a 70 on a hot and humid afternoon at Congressional Country Club.
Steve Stricker shot a 67 and is three strokes behind Appleby. Mike Weir, who also carded 67, is four off the lead in fourth.