Woods takes charge of Blue Monster

Associated Press • Mar 24, 2007 at 12:27 PM

MIAMI - With the Masters right around the corner and his putting stroke lagging behind, Tiger Woods stayed on the practice green for close to an hour after the first round at Doral in a desperate search for a solution.

With a 10-foot par that meant more to him than any of his six birdies, he found it Friday in the CA Championship. The result was a familiar name atop the leaderboard at a tournament that has changed in so many ways.

Woods followed his key par with three straight birdies on his way a 6-under 66 for a two-shot lead over Rod Pampling, putting the world's No. 1 player back on track for a third consecutive victory on the Blue Monster.

"Anytime you make big par putts, I think it's more important to make those than birdie putts," Woods said. "You don't ever want to drop a shot. The psychological difference between dropping a shot and making a birdie, I just think it's bigger to make a par putt. And I was able to make those."

He spoke in plural terms because there were two of them. The 10-foot par on the par-3 ninth kept him from losing ground. The 10-foot par putt on the 18th hole kept his margin at two shots. Woods was at 7-under 137 and will play in the final group today with Pampling (69), a frequent practice partner at the majors.

"No dropped shots," Woods said. "And under these conditions, I'm very proud of that."

The conditions have been the biggest change at a tournament that has undergone a makeover. It's now a World Golf Championship with 73 players from around the world, not 144 players from primarily the PGA Tour. Doral is being played at the end of the Florida Swing instead of the first week in March.

A year ago, the cut was made at 4 under par. Now, that's good enough for third place - a group that includes Ernie Els (70), Henrik Stenson (73), Charles Howell III (71), Thomas Bjorn (72) and Trevor Immelman (68).

Woods' 66 was the best round of the tournament and another example of how strong wind and new greens, which are unfamiliar to so many regulars at Doral, have affected scoring. A year ago, Woods had a share of the halfway lead at 13 under.

Robert Allenby, who shared the first-round lead with Stenson, had a 74 and was in the large group at 3 under.

Vijay Singh, the only two- time winner on the PGA Tour this year, had a 68 and was in the group at 2-under 142.

Safeway International

SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN, Ariz. - Lorena Ochoa made two eagles to take a one-stroke lead over Catriona Matthew in the suspended second round of the Safeway International.

The Mexican star was 9 under with four holes remaining when play was suspended because of darkness. She will have a 12-foot putt for birdie on the par-4 15th hole when play resumes today.

Ochoa eagled the par-4 sixth, holing a 6-iron from 165 yards. On the par-5 13th, she hit her second shot within 10 feet of the green and holed a 30-foot wedge shot.

Matthew was 8 under through 17 holes, twice making chips for birdies. The Scot will have a 20-foot putt for birdie on the par-4 ninth when she closes out the second round.

Norway's Suzann Pettersen was the clubhouse leader at 7 under after a 68.

Play was suspended because of darkness for the second day in a row. On Thursday, rain and lightning stopped the tournament for about two hours, forcing 72 players to finish the first round Friday morning.

Rain and wind greeted them. The storm moved out by midday Friday and there were no more delays, but about 60 players were still on the course when play was suspended.

Annika Sorenstam was 3 under after a 68.

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