Tiger stalks history again

Tiger Woods is fast running out of records to beat after yet another astonishing display in Ohio. Clearly not considering the 2000 season to be a mission accomplished after winning the US Open, the Open and US PGA in the space of 10 weeks, the 24-year-old world No 1 yesterday resumed his defence of the NEC World Championship with a seven-stroke lead.

Tiger Woods is fast running out of records to beat after yet another astonishing display in Ohio. Clearly not considering the 2000 season to be a mission accomplished after winning the US Open, the Open and US PGA in the space of 10 weeks, the 24-year-old world No 1 yesterday resumed his defence of the NEC World Championship with a seven-stroke lead.

On Friday night Woods added a nine-under-par, course record-equalling 61 to his opening 64 at Firestone and so reached halfway in the event with a first prize of $1m on the 15-under-par mark of 125. That broke by one the US Tour 36-hole record set by Tommy Bolt back in 1954 and matched by Paul Azinger, John Cook, Rick Fehr, Steve Jones and David Frost. The 61 not only equalled Jose Maria Olazabal's 10-year-old course record, but also equalled the lowest round of Woods's competitive career.

He has had a 59 while practising in Florida with Mark O'Meara the week before his 1997 Masters victory, but matched here the first round 61 he had at last year's Byron Nelson Classic. Woods did not win then. In fact, he finished seventh. But nobody was expecting that to happen this weekend because he appears in such a groove at the moment.

He has now scored par or better in his last 33 rounds - 29 on them on the US Tour, yet another record - going back three months and is 127-under-par for that stretch.

Woods even had a bogey on his card, but admitted: "I hit some wonderful drives and some good solid irons shots. I left myself some makeable birdie putts inside 15 feet and I was able to convert most of them. I felt comfortable, a lot more than I did in the first round. I was able to drive the ball the correct shape - right-to-left, left-to-right, whatever it may be."

"I was also able to change my trajectory for whatever shot I wanted to play. It felt good."

He does not consider the 36-hole record his, however, because Firestone, even though it measures 7,139 yards, is a par 70. Fehr's 64-62 in Las Vegas four years represented 17 under and Woods, two behind that, said: "I guess the only way to look at it is in relation to par. I don't think you can just strictly look at just a number."

The magic number for a round is 59, of course, and that is one record Woods can still go for. He has had two chances already this week, standing seven under after 12 holes in the first round and eight under at the same point in the second. "To be honest, I had no clue how many under par I was. At the time, I think I had a five or six-shot lead and I just tried to increase that." The bogey came at the 14th to kill off the dream score, but his birdie at the 16th will long be talked about by those who saw it.

The hole measures 625 yards and there is a lake in front of the green. Normally players are only able to go for the green in two if the tee is moved forward, but Woods smashed a drive and had 269 yards to the flag. He pulled out a two-iron and its first bounce was three yards past the hole.

Phil Mickelson lay in second place again, with fellow Americans Justin Leonard and Jim Furyk third and fourth, eight and nine behind. Lee Westwood and Philip Price led the European challenge, if challenge it is, on five under, 10 adrift.

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