Saturday, January 17, 2009

HONOLULU (AP) — Facing a forecast of 50 mph gusts, Nathan Green wasn't even sure if he would be playing Friday. He made the most of a windy day at Waialae for another 4-under 66 and a one-stroke lead among early starters at the Sony Open.

Green dropped only one shot when the weather was at its worst, picked up two birdies on some of the tougher holes and wound up one shot ahead of Shigeki Maruyama, who was playing in his group and had a 68.

"All the news that maybe we wouldn't play had a few of us pretty scared, and that it was meant to blow all day," Green said. "But you get patches out there where it was not really blowing at all. They have the tees forward on a lot of holes. So as long as you get your tee shot in the fairway, you still have a few fair opportunities to make birdie."

Green was at 8-under 132 as he tries to give Australia back-to-back victories to open the 2009 season. Geoff Ogilvy, who won last week in the Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua, was among the late starters Friday.

Stephen Marino birdies his last three holes for a 67 and was at 5-under 135.

The group at 136 included Stewart Cink (65) and David Toms, who had a bogey-free 66 after scrambling for pars down the stretch when dark clouds rolled over the mountains and brought hard rain for about 30 minutes.

The rain was so strong that Greg Kraft had a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th, and as the ball was not even halfway to the hole, he was running toward his caddie to get under the umbrella.

Toms watched the wind carry one shot across the green into the rough, but he chipped nicely to 3 feet for par. Then came the 17th, playing 188 yards, and Toms selected a 3-iron. He came up some 40 yards short of the hole.

"I'm hitting into the wind, trying to hang onto the club," he said. "It was tough."

But it could have been much worse.

The course was slightly shorter, and the greens a little slower because the greens were cut only once in case of high wind.

Waialae lost power briefly Friday night after a high wind warning was issue for Oahu, with gusts approaching 60 mph in the forecast. But the system lost strength as it moved over from the windward side, and players were left with only a slightly stronger wind than the opening round.

Green played a 6-iron from 160 yards into 4 feet for a rare birdie on the 14th, birdied both the par 5s and only ran into trouble once, when the rain fell sideways. He hooked his tee shot on the fifth, fortunate that it caught a tree and stopped short of the hazard. He still had 8-iron for his third shot and made bogey.

Maruyama, who lost his PGA Tour card last year and is playing on a sponsor's exemption, followed his opening 65 with a solid round of 68 that allowed his confidence to slowly build.

"It's tough to follow up a good round like that, especially the round that I had yesterday," he said. "But my goal this week, especially in these conditions, is if I can shoot 2 under, I'm going to be happy every day. So to be able to shoot 2 under today, I'm real satisfied."

Ernie Els, a two-time Sony Open champion who has never finished lower than fifth at Waialae, played bogey-free over the final 16 holes to scrape out a 69 and finish at 1-over 141, which should be enough to make the cut.

Among the late starters were Hawaii's teenagers, 18-year-old Tadd Fujikawa and 14-year-old Lorens Chan, the amateur qualifier. Chans started the second round at 2 over as he tried to become the youngest player in PGA Tour history to make the cut.

Divots: Jeff Sluman, a former Sony Open winner who now is a regular Champions Tour, took a one-time exemption from the money list to play on the PGA Tour, even though he expects to play only a couple of events. He shot a 69 Friday and had a chance to make the cut at 2 over, but the highlight came Thursday. "I got drug tested," Sluman said with a laugh. ... Stephen Marino, now in his third year, was asked the difference between playing the Sony Open now compared with his rookie season. "I wasn't paired with Michelle Wie," he said.

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