Familiar faces -- including Woods -- rise to top at BMW

Byrd is a self-described bubble boy at No. 30, although he is cruising right along and thinking only about Cog Hill, not East Lake.

"I'm here to win this golf tournament," he said.

Byrd almost let that chance get away from him when he bogeyed the eighth hole, failed to birdie the easy par-4 10th and the par-5 11th, then dropped another shot on the 12th. He told himself to stay patient and finish strong, then he promptly duck-hooked his tee shot on the par-5 15th and had to scramble for par.

But he did remain calm, he picked up birdies on the next two holes and wound up atop the leaderboard.

"I was proud of myself," Byrd said. "I kept a good attitude and kept telling myself, 'I'm going to finish strong.' And I really didn't miss a shot coming in."

Woods missed plenty of them, particularly on the 600-yard ninth hole.

His drive went into the trees well right of the fairway. His second shot clipped a tree and sailed to the left rough on the cart path, behind more trees. Then he hooked an 8-iron from 171 yards in the rough, around the trees, to 15 feet for birdie.

"It's all about the angles," he said leaving the green, as if that was the strategy all along.

On the par-5 11th, Woods again went into the rough and his third shot to the green was woefully short, but anger turned to a sly smile when he drained a 40-foot birdie putt.

Stricker went toe-to-toe with Woods the last two rounds and matched him birdie-for-birdie, although his were far more conventional.

He walked off the green shaking his head at some of the birdies Woods was making, but his were impressive in their own right. He found the fairway and laid up on the ninth, then used the wind and spin on the soft greens to stick his wedge inside a foot. On the 11th, he again laid up short of the green and hit a wedge to 18 inches.

His only big error came on the fourth, when he misjudged the wind off the tee and went into the left rough blocked by trees. There was only one limb in his way, and Stricker figured he could go under it or over it.

"What are my odds of hitting that thing?" he said. "And sure enough, I hit it dead square and it fell straight down and into a worse lie. I hacked it up short of the green and didn't get it up-and-down."

But then came the strength of his game. Perhaps the most congenial guy in golf used to beat himself up over mistakes, but he is getting better at letting it go. And the fact he birdied five of the next seven holes was proof of that.

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