NORTON, Mass. — The TPC at Boston is supposed to be a haven for big hitters. Olin Browne and Jeff Brehaut proved otherwise Saturday, tying for the lead with a cast of short knockers behind them.
Browne is 178th in driving distance, but he hardly missed a shot in the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship and made five straight birdies on his way to a 65. All but one of his birdie chances were inside 15 feet on his first 11 holes, and he converted most of them.
Brehaut checks in at No. 118 off the tee. He made an eagle on the par-5 second hole, added four birdies and walked off with a 66 and his first time atop the leaderboard through 36 holes.
Right behind were guys like Tim Petrovic (66) and Billy Andrade (68), both ranked outside the top 100 in driving distance. The only exception was Robert Allenby, who is 29th in driving distance. He birdied four of his last five holes for a 65 and was one shot back.
"It's my overpowering length that is such an asset on a golf course like this," Browne said, rolling his eyes. "The course is playing well, and it's playing fast. I've hit the ball solidly the last couple of days and had enough opportunities that I've taken advantage of a few. I hope I can continue that."
The greater mystery was Tiger Woods.
After making a 65 look easy in the first round, and on a gorgeous day in which 82 players broke par, Woods couldn't get anything right in his round of 73 that left him five shots behind.
"I didn't hit it well. I didn't putt well. I didn't chip well," Woods said after failing to break par for the first time on the TPC at Boston. "That was ugly today. But I'm still in the ball game."
He and just about everyone else.
Only eight shots separated the leaders from those who made the cut at 1-under 141. That slim of a margin has happened only two other times this year.
Browne and Brehaut, similar in length, are in vastly different positions.
Brehaut, 42, didn't make it on the PGA Tour until 1999 and has been struggling ever since. He usually spends this time of the year grinding to make enough money to keep his card. But his best year has put him 67th on the money list and caused him to reassess his goals.
"I'm looking at finishing in the top 70 (to get into the invitationals), or finishing in the top 40 gets me into the Masters, which is my ultimate dream," he said. "I'm in a position where if I have a good weekend, I can do that here."
Browne has already won twice on the PGA Tour, but his game has slipped in recent years. He narrowly missed his card two years ago and had to beg for sponsor's exemptions last season. He missed his card by two spots on the money list last year, and found tournament directors not as willing to help him again.
He is 119th on the money list, in dire need to a big week.
"People are willing to give you a chance, but they can't do it forever," he said.
Browne isn't thinking about that on the golf course. He spent early last year revamping his swing to get his shoulder and arms on plane, and he is starting to see the results.
This is only the second time Browne, 46, has held at least a share of the 36-hole lead. The other time was the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, where he was in contention until closing with an 80 on the final day. Still, Browne took plenty of positives out of that, especially the way he shot 59 to qualify for the U.S. Open.
"I didn't get to win the tournament, but it validated all the things I've been working on for the last year and a half," Browne said. "I struggled Sunday, didn't shoot a very good score, but committed to every shot and played really well. There are days when you do a lot of things right and you end up empty-handed. And there are days when balls are bouncing off of trees and putts are lipping in. I can't explain it."
This was a more conventional round, set up by solid play.
He missed only two greens, and was never particularly far from the hole. Browne missed five putts inside 15 feet and still shot 65 for a share of the lead.
"The amount of times you play is irrelevant," he said. "It's how you play when you get in."
What also proved irrelevant for two rounds is the theory that the TPC of Boston is for big hitters only. Adam Scott won the first year, and Vijay Singh beat Scott and Woods last year.
"Guys are learning the golf course a little better," Andrade said.
LPGA STATE FARM CLASSIC: Solheim Cup player Pat Hurst shot a 7-under 65 to take a three-stroke lead in the LPGA State Farm Classic, the final event before the United States faces Europe next week at Crooked Stick.
Hurst, who won the last of her three LPGA Tour titles in 2000, had eight birdies and a bogey in the third round to finish at 15-under 201 on Rail Golf Club course.
A week ago, she was tied for the lead on the last tee at the Wendy's Championship for Children in Ohio but ended up losing to U.S. teammate Cristie Kerr.
Kim Williams was second after a 66. Kerr, the winner last year with a tournament-record 24-under total, was four strokes back along with Scotland's Catriona Matthew. Kerr and Matthew, a member of the European Solheim Cup team, shot 67s.
EUROPEAN MASTERS: Sergio Garcia pitched in from 110 yards on the last hole for an eagle Saturday, giving the Spaniard an even-par 71 and a one-stroke lead after the third round of the European Masters.
Garcia had an 11-under 202 total. Wales' Garry Houston (69) was second, and England's Luke Donald, the defending champion, was two strokes back after a 66.
CHINA MASTERS: South Africa's Retief Goosen shot a 1-under 71 to take a one-stroke lead over U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell in the China Masters.
Goosen had a 14-under 216 total on the Jinghua Golf Club course. Campbell, of New Zealand, shot a 71.