Weekend Fireworks on Tap

By Mercer BaggsMarch 21, 2003, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ernie Els got off to a green-light start Friday, caught a very long red light in the middle of his round, and then punched the gas coming home.
 
It was that kind of stop-and-go day at the Bay Hill Invitational.
 
Els birdied his first four holes en route to moving from a tie for 42nd as the day began into a share of the lead, at 3-under.
 
He then had to wait out a near five-hour stoppage. A deluge brought play to a halt for four hours and 47 minutes. Play resumed at 4:00 PM ET, and when darkness finally brought an end to an exhausting day, Els found himself still at the top in the clubhouse lead.
 
Els shot 7-under 65, tying his career-low round in this event, which hes played every year since 1993. Hes at 5-under-par 139.
 
Aaron Baddeley, who lost to Els in a playoff at the Sony Open, birdied each of his first three holes before the siren sounded to conclude play at 6:37. Hes at 6-under.
 
Jonathan Kaye is at 5-under. He is through nine holes of his second round. Former Bay Hill resident Steve Lowery (67), Peter Lonard (69) and Niclas Fasth (68) are in at 4-under.
 
Sixty-one players did not complete their second rounds. They will recommence at 7:00 AM Saturday.
 
That includes Tiger Woods, who was scheduled to go out at 12:30 PM, but didnt hit his first shot until 4:50. Despite the delay, his afternoon was nonetheless eventful.
 
Woods left the course during the suspension when his girlfriend of nearly two years, Swedish model Elin Nordegren, collapsed due to dehydration from food poisoning earlier in the week. Friends were escorting Nordegren when she dropped to the ground in the parking lot.
 
Roughly 20 minutes after being helped to the clubhouse by Fanny Sunesson, Nick Faldos caddie, Nordegren was carried by stretcher into a paramedics truck. Woods accompanied her to nearby Sand Lake Hospital, where she received fluids.
 
'She is doing well, but is a little sick,' Woods said. 'I assume she was released because when I left they said she was only going to be there for another hour.'
 
Upon his return, Woods made four birdies and two bogeys in seven holes. He goes to bed just one back of Els at 4-under, and most assured of making his 100th consecutive cut in a PGA Tour event. The record is 113 by Byron Nelson.
 
'I made a couple of mistakes, but still ended up under par for the day. I am very pleased,' Woods said.
 
The resumption of play assured that Jack Nicklaus would not be around for the weekend and Arnold Palmer can focus more on his role as tournament host.
 
Palmer, playing in possibly his final PGA Tour event, followed his worst score ever in this tournament, a 15-over 87, with an 85. Nicklaus shot 82-76.
 
Woods and Els are both holding up their ends of the bargain in setting up a much desired Sunday showdown between the worlds top-2 ranked players.
 
It will be great for the fans and (the media), Els said. Speaking for myself, I just want to get better.
 
If I get to the level I want to play at, Im going to play a lot with Tiger, because hes on that level.
 
The Big Easy was easily the hottest player on the course when play was initially halted at 11:13 AM. Starting the day at 2-over, he quickly shot up the leaderboard and moved into a nine-way share of the lead when the rains returned.
 
The course was already quite wet following early morning showers at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge Friday, leaving the greens far more receptive than when Els stepped off the course Thursday evening.
 
And he took advantage.
 
He started his day by making a 47-footer for birdie at the par-4 10th. He then made an eight-footer at 11, a six-footer at 12 and a 12-footer at the 13th.
 
I wanted to get off to a good start, which I did, Els said. You dont plan to make four birdies in a row from the first hole, but I just hit the shots in the right places and made some good putts and off I went.
 
His run came to an end when he just missed an 18-footer at 14. That began a stretch of seven straight pars. It ended in fine fashion when he made a 25-foot birdie at the par-4 third.
 
He then took an extended time-out with his ball in the fairway at the par-4 fifth.
 
When you play well going into a rain delay you have to make sure you dont ruin it coming back out, Els said.
 
He narrowly avoided disaster at the par-5 sixth when his ball barley cleared the massive lake protecting the green. As he did in a similar situation on 16 Thursday, he got up and down for birdie. He then finished his scoring with a 20-foot birdie at the par-3 seventh.
 
Els said he was pleased that he was able to finish his round and avoid waking up early just to play a couple of holes Saturday morning before teeing off in the afternoon. However, he added that he didnt get the good end of the draw.
 
Playing yesterday afternoon in those conditions and then spending all day at the golf course today, I just think the guys playing yesterday morning are going to get another morning round in again, Els said in reference to the fact that the other side of the draw will get to play two rounds where they will be greeted with softer, more ideal scoring conditions.
 
Still, a bit of history is on Els side. The last time weather affected this event was 1998. That year Els outlasted Woods and Davis Love III over a 36-hole final day.
 
Related Links
  • Full-field scores from the Bay Hill Invitational
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    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

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