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Singh putts into Western Open lead

SHARE Singh putts into Western Open lead

Vijay Singh gives his caddy all the credit for helping turn around his putting. So the least Singh could do was pay him back with a 5-under-par birthday present.

Singh shot a 67 Saturday to take a two-shot lead in the Western Open with a 15-under-par 201 after the third round on Cog Hill's Dubsdread course in Lemont, Ill."He told me to make sure I played good today," Singh said of caddie Dave Renwick. "I said, `Why?' and he said, `Because it's my birthday."'

Greg Kraft, the first-round leader, shot a 66 and was two strokes back at 13-under 203 in the $2.2 million, Motorola-sponsored event. Joe Durant, the leader after the second round, was at 11-under 205 after shooting a 70, and U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen was five strokes back at 206 after bogeying the 18th to finish with a 69.

Tiger Woods, in danger of missing the cut after a dismal first round, had a second good round yet lost ground. He shot a 3-under 69 for 212, 11 strokes behind Singh.

"If the leaders can stay around 10 or 11, I've got a shot at it. If it's 14 or 15, it's out of reach." said Woods, the defending champion. "You have to hang in there and hang in there and grind it out. You might get hot and get back in the ball game."

With the temperature in the upper 90s and humidity making it feel like it was 107, everyone struggled to keep cool Saturday. The caddies, lugging around heavy bags for 41/2 hours, had it especially bad, and Mark Hensel, Kraft's caddie, collapsed with heat stroke after the 17th hole.

A marshal carried Kraft's bag the last hole, and Hensel was taken to a hospital for IV fluids. He's expected to be back Sunday.

"He said, `I can make it, I just can't think,"' Kraft said. "This is just a golf tournament. His health is more important."

Singh, who started the day a stroke behind Durant, got birdies on Nos. 5 and 7 on the front nine. As soon as he hit the back nine, his game took off. He sank an 8-foot putt for birdie on the par-5 11th to go 11-under, and then picked up another stroke with a birdie on the par-3 No. 14.

His drive on the long par-5 No. 15 was high and short, so Singh went with a 3-wood for his second shot and put it within 20 feet of the pin. Using his new putter and new cross-hand grip, he made the putt for an eagle and went 14-under.

"I stood there for awhile and it was so hot that time of day, and my caddy said, `Just go ahead and hit the 3-wood and see what happens,"' Singh said. "It just came out perfect. And the putt was a good putt."

After struggling with his putting the past six weeks, Singh has finally found his rhythm. Using an easy, fluid stroke, he had 28 putts Saturday.

Never a fantastic putter, Singh said that was the first thing Renwick told him he needed to focus on when the two began working together a year ago this week.

"The last year, my putting statistics went south," Singh said. "Whenever I putt well, I perform well in the tournament."

Singh got a little help from Kraft, too. Kraft, who didn't find out until Monday that he had a sponsor's exemption to enter the tournament, went to the top of the leader board with an eagle on the par-4 No. 4.

Using a 6-iron from 168 feet, he hit his second shot right into the flag, denting the pin as the ball dropped into the hole.

"That was pretty special," he said.

A birdie on No. 5 put Kraft at 11-under and he picked up two more strokes with birdies on Nos. 11 and 12. But he ran into trouble on the 13th hole.

His second shot on the par-4 hole hit a bunker on the left side of the green, and his chip shot rolled past the cup and almost off the green. He two-puuted for his first bogey of the day.

He had another bogey on No. 14 but, despite picking up a stroke with a birdie on the 15th, couldn't catch Singh.

"I anticipate having to shoot a low number with Vijay being two shots ahead," said Kraft, who finished second in the 1994 Western Open after he bogeyed his 18th hole. "I have great memories of this place, and (winning) would top them all."

NFL GOLF CLASSIC: At Clifton, N.J., Mike McCullough, seeking his first win in an official PGA Tour event, shot a 7-under-par 65 to take a one-stroke lead after two rounds of the $1.1 million Cadillac NFL Golf Classic on Saturday.

Jay Sigel was a shot behind after shooting a 64, the low round in this week's senior tournament, while Jim Colbert, Larry Nelson and Bruce Summerhays were two shots out heading into Sunday's final round.

Despite windy conditions on the tight Upper Montclair Country Club, the old, tree-lined course gave up some very good rounds as the greens held shots after an hour-long rain on Friday. There were 44 players who shot par or better in the second round.

First-round leader Charles Coody was among those who struggled, shooting a 1-over-par 73 to fall five shots off the pace. Defending champion Bruce Crampton and Dave Stockton, who were one shot off the lead Friday, shot 2-under-par 70s and were in a group three shots back at 7-under-par.

SHOPRITE LPGA CLASSIC: At Absecon, N.J., Annika Sorenstam showed her U.S. Open-winning form again Saturday, shooting a course record-tying 65 to take the second-round lead in the ShopRite LPGA Classic at 11-under-par 131.

Sorenstam had only one bogey on the Bay Course at the Seaview Marriott Resort - that coming on a three-putt green - and moved two strokes ahead of Juli Inkster going into Sunday's final round. Tina Barrett was four back at 135.