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Vijay Now on Top at BMW Championship


Vijay Singh followed up his opening 7-under 65 with a 66 to take a one-stroke lead in the BMW Championship, the third leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. The 49-year-old stands at 13-under 131 in the $8 million tournament at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind.

Over two days the three-time major winner has carded 13 birdies, an eagle and only two bogeys on the rain-softened Pete Dye-designed course. He leads Ryan Moore (66), Tiger Woods (67) and first-round co-leader Rory McIlroy, who opened with a 64 but shot 68 Friday.

Starting on the 10th hole, Singh went out with three birdies to make the turn in 3-under 33. But then the "Big Fijian" reeled off three straight birdies on the first through third holes (his 10-12) before his lone bogey Friday on the fourth (13th). He closed with a birdie on the par-5 last.

The key to Singh's performance this week has been his work on the greens; on Thursday he needed only 22 putts and had a respectable 25 in the second round. Singh said he's been aided by a fatter grip on his belly-style putter. "I've been putting so poorly at the beginning of the year, I just needed a change," he told reporters.

"I tried the grips, so many different grips, but this one just feels really good when I put my hands on it. It fits nicely, and it's a light one, too. It's a thick grip but it's not heavy, so it kind of gives a good balance to the putter. I think that's pretty much why. I think it was just before the British (Open) when I changed."

For the second straight day, the 70-player field used lift-clean-and-place guidelines due to the wet conditions of the 7,516-yard course. They were also sent out early to avoid the expected afternoon thunderstorms; as a result, everyone completed their second rounds.

Moore, a 29-year-old from Puyallup, Wash., was among those who took advantage of the "ball-in-hand" rules. He posted seven birdies and a bogey en route to his second straight 66. The 2009 Wyndham Championship winner has also done well on the short grass, needed 53 putts over two days. "It was just another really good, solid round, putting the ball in the fairway, and then with the ball in hand, that's nice," said the former U.S. Amateur champion.

"Hitting good, solid iron shots and really just converting. Any reasonable chance for birdie I had, I pretty much made it. And I only made one bogey for the two days, so . . .

"Considering I had extremely large clumps of mud on the ball every single tee shot yesterday, who knows," he said of being able to clean balls hitting the fairways. "In those circumstances you can hit great golf shots all day that end up 30 yards off of a green. You know, it was a pretty significant difference yesterday. Today, not so much. I maybe only had two mud balls all day, so it really wouldn't have made that much of a difference today. But they obviously just couldn't chance it with that storm this afternoon. I mean, it was the right decision. But it definitely would have played just fine today without ball in hand."

Once again, Woods has put together two good rounds to start a Playoffs event. Last week in the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, he carded four rounds in the 60s for the first time since the 2009 BMW Championship, which he won.

"I've been able to grind," Woods said of his secret. "I didn't have it with my swing, just kind of fighting it around here. I was grinding hard, staying as patient as possible. You look up at the scores, the guys are just running off. I just wanted to get to double digits today. I felt like that would have been a good accomplishment the way I was hitting the golf ball, and happy to get a couple more."

Though McIlroy wasn't quite as hot as in the first round, he still shot under par to be only one back of Singh heading into the final 36 holes of the no-cut tournament. "It wasn't as good a day as yesterday," the 23-year-old Northern Irishman admitted. "I didn't hit the ball quite as well, but scored well and did enough to go out there and shoot another good number and set myself up in a good position going into the weekend. You know, as I said, I could have hit the ball a little better from tee to green, but still got it around in 4 under, so pretty happy."

Two strokes behind Singh at 11-under 133 are Lee Westwood (65) and first-round co-leader Bo Van Pelt (69). Westwood has needed only 26 putts each of the first two days, while averaging 77 percent in fairways hit. "I've worked hard on my putting, and I'm starting to roll a lot of good putts," said the 39-year-old Brit. "I wasn't driving it well on the back nine but still hitting good putts, and when they weren't going in I was misreading them. But they're starting to start off on-line, which hasn't been happening all year."

Another shot back in a tie for seventh are South Korean Seung-Yul No (66) and Canada's Graham DeLaet (70), the third first-round co-leader (the other is Webb Simpson). Though DeLaet said his work off the tee was better than in his opening 64, he struggled on the short grass. "Tee to green it was better today," the Saskatchewan native said.

"I wasn't seeing the lines on my putts," added the graduate of Boise State University. "I hit some good putts and just kind of misreading things. Some days you see it and some days you don't. I played nicely. Kind of a stress free round. I made one up and down on the 4th hole, and other than that it was pretty stress free, so I'll take it."

Four behind Singh are Graeme McDowell (67), Dustin Johnson (67), Padraig Harrington (65) and defending FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas, who fired the low round of the day, an 8-under 64 that included eight birdies, an eagle on the ninth, and a solitary bogey.

Haas was yet another player who said the difference was his work on the greens. "I hit it pretty similar yesterday, just couldn't get the putter going, and today it was hot.," said the 30-year-old, who had 24 putts, nine less than on Thursday when he shot 71. "I made actually two nice 10 footers for par and one for bogey. If you don't make those and I don't make a couple others, it's the same old story, 2 under, 1 under par. It's nice to see some putts go in, and you're going to have to do it - they're going so low out here. The course is just prime for scoring. Happy to shoot a good number."

Also in the mix heading into the weekend at 136 are Tom Gillis (67), Robert Garrigus (69), Ian Poulter (68), Adam Scott (68), John Huh (66), Zach Johnson (69), Phil Mickelson (67), Chris Kirk (68) and Troy Matteson (66).

Mickelson told reporters later that he felt he left a few birdies out on the course. "Today I hit the ball really well. I hit a lot of good shots, and although I shot 5 under and I'm pleased with the round and so forth, I left probably five, six, seven shots on the greens that could have gone.

"As good as these greens are, you expect to make a lot of these 8 and 12 footers and I left some out there. I made one on the last, so I have a good taste heading into the weekend, and see if I can get it all together because I feel like I'm really close to a really hot round."

Sharing 22nd at 137 are Justin Rose (70), Rickie Fowler (70), Louis Oosthuizen (69), Martin Laird (68), Charl Schwartzel (68) and Brendon de Jonge (66). Luke Donald (72), Brandt Snedeker (69), Ben Crane (71), Kyle Stanley (70) and Sergio Garcia (69) are tied for 28th at 138.

Despite posting a 1-over 73 that included only two birdies against four bogeys and a double on the par-4 seventh, Steve Stricker had the shot of the day. Right before his double, the 45-year-old aced the par-3 sixth. Stricker used a 6-iron on the 198-yard hole. "It was about the only highlight of the day," said Stricker of his third hole-in-one on the PGA Tour. "It was hard to see it go in . . . all we could see was the reaction from the crowd up by the green."

Other scores included a 3-over 75 by Simpson, a score 11 strokes higher than his opening effort. The reigning U.S. Open champion had three birdies, but those were offset - and more - by four bogeys and a double on the sixth.

Because more afternoon thunderstorms are forecast for Saturday, the starting times have been moved up again for the third round. Play will start at 11 a.m. (EDT), with threesomes sent off both the first and 10th tees. He fell all the way down the leaderboard into a tie for 33rd with 10 others, including Nick Watney (69), who started the BMW in second place in FedEx Cup points to McIlroy.

Woods and McIlroy, who won last week's Deutsche Bank Championship, were paired in the initial two rounds. On Saturday, they'll play in separate threesomes, with Woods going out alongside Westwood and Van Pelt, and McIlroy accompanied by Singh and Moore in the last group.

For all the tee times, visit http://www.pgatour.com/tournaments/r028/tee-times.html. For complete scoring details, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboards/current/r028/.