Goosen Trails by One Tiger Lurking

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HARRISON, N.Y. -- Briny Baird carded a 2-under 69 on Friday to hold the second-round lead of the Buick Classic at Westchester Country Club. Baird stands at 10-under-par 132 and owns a one-shot lead over 2001 U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen.
 
Skip Kendall is alone in third place after a second-round 66 put him at 8-under-par for the championship. Joey Sindelar is in fourth at minus-7 as he posted a 69 on Friday.
 
Tiger Woods, who has never won this event in two previous starts as a professional, shot a 69 and shares fifth place at 6-under-par 136.
 
'I feel pretty good. I've played nine holes well each day. I just need to keep it going longer than that,' said Woods, who has not won since Bay Hill in late March. 'It's getting better now. It's not just playing two or three holes and then leaving me for a couple holes. It's staying longer. I'm starting to get more into the rhythm.'
 
Woods tallied four birdies on his front nine, the back side at the West Course at Westchester. He fell down the leaderboard with a pair of bogeys at one and three but rebounded with a birdie at No. 6.
 
Woods chose the wrong club off the tee at the seventh and paid the price with a bogey. He parred out to polish off his 69 and get into position on the weekend.
 
The top-ranked player in the world has been battling what some call a slump. He tied for 20th at the U.S. Open last week and his best finish since Bay Hill was a distant tie for fourth at the Memorial.
 
'There's really nothing wrong. There really isn't,' said Woods, who does have three victories in 2003. 'That's the thing that people don't really understand. Golf is not easy. I've had some pretty good success this year.'
 
Woods shares fifth place with Shigeki Maruyama (69), J.L. Lewis (68), Brad Faxon (67), Tom Gillis (65) and Jonathan Kaye (65).
 
Baird, who led by three at the start of the round, flew out of the gate Friday with a 30-foot birdie putt at the first. He followed that with a birdie at two after a solid 9-iron approach but things fell apart quickly for Baird.
 
At the third, Baird drove into the right rough and had to chip out into the fairway. He wedged his third shot on to the green but the spin pulled the ball off the putting surface. Baird putted from off the green but didn't come close to the hole and in fact missed the second putt to walk off with a double- bogey.
 
'Now I'm back to even, which actually at the time I wasn't happy, but I wasn't as upset as you would think after making double,' said Baird. 'I'm thinking it's the equivalent of going par, par, par. Play mind games with yourself out there sometimes, it makes you feel a little bit better after making a double.'
 
Baird traded a pair of birdies and a pair of bogeys over the remainder of his front nine to make the turn at even-par for his round.
 
Baird got it back on track at the short par-4 10th. He elected to lay up with a 5-wood and knocked a wedge to five feet to set up birdie. Baird missed the fairway at 12 and bogeyed the hole to fall to 8-under par for the tournament.
 
He ran home a tricky, downhill breaker for birdie at the 14th and closed his round with a three-foot birdie putt at No. 17 after a spectacular 9-iron approach.
 
'It was definitely an up-and-down round,' said Baird, who is winless in four years on tour. 'It's hard to get the ball close on some of these pins. Hopefully this is the week where I start making a name for myself.'
 
Baird held a piece of the 36-hole lead last year in Hartford but went on to tie for 18th. There is a similarity between the Buick Classic and Hartford and that is there are big names chasing down Baird. Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III were the players in Connecticut while Woods and Goosen are coming at Baird this week.
 
'It makes you feel good that you know that you are playing better than them after two days, but again it's only two days,' said Baird. 'These guys don't shoot these unbelievable numbers every time they play. They could be playing just mediocre golf right now or they could be playing great golf and just not making any putts or not scoring well.'
 
Goosen bogeyed No. 3 but hit a 3-wood to three feet to set up eagle at the par-5 ninth. He tallied four birdies on the back nine, including a pair of three-footers and a pair of 15-footers, to shoot 66.
 
'I played pretty nicely today,' said Goosen, who defeated Mark Brooks in a playoff to win the U.S. Open at Southern Hills two years ago. 'It's obviously quite difficult to get close to a lot of the flags. I got off to a very slow start, but the eagle on the ninth hole really sort of got my momentum going.'
 
Jim Furyk, last week's U.S Open winner, shot a 2-over 73 to fall into a tie for 23rd at 3-under-par 139.
 
Chris Smith will not be the first player since Ernie Els in 1996-97 to successfully defend his title. Smith missed the 36-hole cut, which fell at even-par 142, by a single stroke.
 
Among the other notable players to miss the weekend were David Duval (144), reigning PGA Champion Rich Beem (145), American Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton (146) and Ty Tryon (147).
 

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