sept7 byrdleads


Jonathan Byrd is playing for the fifth consecutive week, a stretch that began in 100-degree heat at the PGA Championship and has brought him to muggy conditions at the BMW Championship.

He is so tired that he has cut down his time on the practice range. What has helped carry him through these PGA Tour Playoffs is knowing that when the Tour Championship ends next week in Atlanta, Byrd will be able to take a five-week break from golf. First, though, he has to get to the Tour Championship.

Byrd got off to a good start yesterday (Thursday), stringing together three birdies late in his round at ghostly quiet Cog Hill for a 7-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Justin Rose and Camilo Villegas.

Tiger Woods was poised to join the leaders until a double bogey on his 16th hole dropped back to 67.

Byrd is trying to think more about winning the tournament than the points that come with it, and he has that experience from two months ago and a few hours south of Cog Hill. He won the John Deere Classic in July.

Justin Rose reached 8 under through 11 holes before he dropped two shots coming in and had to settle for a 65, while Villegas recovered from his long bogey at No. 16 with a birdie on the next hole to also shoot 65.

Stewart Cink, Troy Matteson and Pat Perez were another shot back. Woods, a three-time winner at Cog Hill, moved up the leaderboard with ease until his pitching wedge from the rough went over the green, leaving him a delicate chip to a downhill pin. His flop shot came up short, his next chip went 10 feet by and he made double bogey.

"I wasn't trying to get cute on it at all,'' Woods said of his flubbed flop, which went four paces. "It just went right underneath it.''

Byrd wasn't the only player desperate for good results. Villegas is at No. 34 in the standings, while Cink is at No. 32.

"Obviously, we're out here to win golf tournaments,'' Villegas said. ``But I believe if I finish top eight, I will be in for next week. I'm trying to win the golf tournament, trying to hit one shot at a time, and it's not going to change the way I play out there.''

Some of the players looked like zombies, and there was a sense of fatigue for those who started these ``playoffs'' at The Barclays in New York two weeks ago. Others simply couldn't take advantage of such perfect scoring conditions.

Former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy took a triple bogey on his fourth hole, No. 13, and never recovered on his way to a 78. Ernie Els, who took last week off to fly home to London, was never under par at any point and shot 72. Vijay Singh had a 74.

Phil Mickelson, of course, didn't play. Lefty is atop the playoff standings over Steve Stricker and Woods, although that could change if either finish second. Stricker and K.J. Choi, who is No. 4, each had 68.

Woods looked like he might be in the hunt the rest of the week, making a half-dozen birdies until his double bogey on the seventh. Woods caught one big break on the par-5 15th, courtesy of players being able to lift, clean and place their golf balls because of the threat of rain that never materialized.

After a poor chip that left him slamming his wedge into the ground and against his bag, Woods replaced his ball on the fringe next to the green, so he could putt through a few inches of fringe instead of a few feet. He holed the 25-footer for birdie.

Otherwise, it was another short day for a short field, and the fatigue of these playoffs showed when it was over.

Hardly anyone went to the practice range. Byrd was among the few, but he didn't stay there long.