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GOLF PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP : It Isn’t Easy, but Azinger Takes the Lead

From Associated Press

Paul Azinger made up four strokes on par over the last four holes Friday in the Players Championship.

It only seemed like more.

“It was playing so hard, every shot you picked up was like picking up two,” Azinger said after taking a one-stroke lead at the halfway point of the windblown $1.6-million Players Championship.

“The hardest I’ve ever seen it blow here,” Azinger said.

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The winds were clocked at 40-45 m.p.h. when Azinger put his birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie finish on a round of 68.

He wore a puzzled expression as he attempted, then abandoned, an explanation of how it happened.

“I don’t want to say it was a fluke, but it happened when I wasn’t playing my best,” he said.

“The wind was almost at hurricane force and I was missing fairways left and right. There was no pattern to what I was doing.”

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He birdied the last four holes he played and completed two trips over the home course for the PGA Tour at 135, nine under par.

Fuzzy Zoeller, a former U.S. Open and Masters champion, and Australian Steve Elkington shared second at 136.

Zoeller, who plays a restricted schedule because of his chronic back pain, had a 68 in the gale-force conditions. Elkington shot 70.

Bob Tway, who held the first-round lead with a 65, went 12 strokes higher to a 77. Mike Smith went up 13 strokes to an 80, and Bob Gilder shot 83.

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Ian Baker-Finch, another Australian, was fourth alone at 138 after a 69. Curtis Strange, with a 68, led a large group at 139.


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