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BUICK INVITATIONAL Lehman ties career best for lead



Published: Fri, January 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Veteran birdied the final six holes to open with a 62 at Torrey Pines North.

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Tom Lehman was so locked into his game Thursday that he didn't realize until after his round he had birdied the last six holes for a 10-under 62 and a one-shot lead in the Buick Invitational.

One thing was clear: He must have been on the North course at Torrey Pines.

In a tournament that takes two days to figure out who's playing the best, Lehman matched his career-low round on the easier North course with a steady diet of fairways and greens. He birdied nine of his final 12 holes for a one-shot lead over Dean Wilson.

"I'm doing a lot of things right that you need to do right out here," Lehman said. "It would have been nice to continue to the first tee on the South course and keep going."

Or maybe not.

North easier of the two

All but two of the top 17 scores came from the North course, which played nearly three strokes easier.

Aaron Baddeley (66) and Peter Lonard (67) had the best scores on the South course, which plays at 7,568 yards and will host the U.S. Open in 2008.

Among the top six players in the world at Torrey Pines, only Ernie Els played the North course (6,873 yards). He also took advantage, making nine birdies and getting away with a few sloppy shots for a 7-under 65.

"You have one chance to shoot something really decent," Els said. "And you've got to hope for the best on the South. These are totally different. "One is like a pitch-and-putt, and then you get to the real world."

The average score on the South course was 72.43, compared with 69.56 on the North.

Tiger Woods struggled with lingering affects from the flu by making a 45-foot birdie on the par-3 third and twice saving par with long putts for a 69, putting him in a large group that included Sergio Garcia.

Vijay Singh, who missed his only cut last year at the Buick Invitational, birdied his final hole for a 71 on the South. Phil Mickelson made an inauspicious debut by hitting only five fairways, playing the par 5s in 2 over and shooting 72.

Arron Oberholser polished off his 64 on the North course and already was looking ahead.

"It's nice to get off to a good start, knowing I've got to play the Monster tomorrow," he said.

Crafty old veteran

Lehman, the 2006 Ryder Cup captain, has been playing solid golf since the end of last year. All his work on the short game started to kick in at the Canadian Open, and Lehman finished the year by playing in the final group in three consecutive tournaments, although he didn't win any of them.

He made his 2005 debut last week in the Sony Open and tied for ninth.

"I'm hitting on the same things that I used to hit on when I was playing my best -- patience and ball control," Lehman said. "Put it in play and don't make too many mistakes, make a few putts. Some days you make more than others, but I feel like I'm in the same place as I was when I was playing my best."

Woods started his season well at Kapalua, then went home and stayed in bed for a week with the flu.

"I didn't feel like I was very strong out there," he said. "But hey, I hung in there and made a few putts. And lo and behold, I shot a round under par."




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