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SINGH LURKS AT TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP

Vijay Singh went 15 holes without a birdie. He missed half his fairways and a half-dozen putts inside 12 feet. And when he walked off the 18th green Thursday at the Tour Championship, he was right where everyone expected him to be.

Singh scratched out a 1-under 69, leaving him two shots out of the lead as he tries to become the first player in 54 years to win at least 10 times on the PGA Tour.

"I'm right there, and there's three days to go," Singh said.

Not everyone wants the 41-year-old Fijian to get his 10th win of the year. Darren Clarke, Jerry Kelly and 50-year-old Jay Haas would be thrilled to win their first. They took a step in that direction on a soggy, blustery day at East Lake, each posting a 3-under 67 to share the lead going into today's second round (noon, ESPN).

Everyone was curious to see how marriage would affect Tiger Woods. The answer? Not a bit. He still can't hit a fairway, struggling off the tee and with his distance control out of the rough for a 72.

But this was not a day to attack East Lake.

The 67 was the highest score to lead the Tour Championship in the four years it has been held at the course where Bobby Jones learned to play. Only 13 players among the top 31 on the money list managed to break par.

Heavy rain Thursday morning turned fairways into small rivers, but a new drainage system at East Lake allowed the season-ending tournament to start on time. It dried up so well that tour officials decided to play the ball as it lies, leaving players to face several shots with mud splattered on their golf balls.

Then came the wind, whistling through the trees and making the closing holes play even tougher. Perhaps it was no coincidence that the trio in the lead had the earlier starting times.

Either that, or they know this is their last chance to win.

That's something that bothers Clarke. Even after another successful Ryder Cup, his year won't be complete without a win.

"I've had a very poor year," Clarke said. "We all play to win, and I haven't managed to do that this year so far."

Haas has gone 11 years without a win, although he wouldn't trade his season. He became the second-oldest player in the Ryder Cup, and Wednesday was honored with the Payne Stewart Award.

Thursday, the old man showed he still has plenty of game.

He nearly found the cup on the fly with a 6-iron on the par-3 11th, making a 12-footer. He surged into a share of the lead with a 5-wood into 15 feet on the par-5 15th to make eagle.

"I'm weak, short, slow, whatever," Haas said. "In the field of athletics, I would not be the favorite by any means. But there's no defense out here, so that's the good thing for me."

David Toms and Zach Johnson are each at 68, while the group at 69 included John Daly, Mike Weir and Padraig Harrington. A victory by Harrington would make him a PGA Tour member and send Tag Ridings -- No. 125 on the money list -- back to Q-school. It also would knock Jesper Parnevik (No. 40) out of the Masters.

Kelly might be taking the best approach to the Tour Championship. He is disgusted with no wins this year, but figured he must have done something right to get into the top 30 on the money list.

"I really didn't feel like I had a good year," Kelly said. "But accept it a little bit and enjoy the fact you're here. That's what I've done. I've taken a lot of the pressure off and kind of enjoyed it."

Sorenstam shares lead

OTSU, Japan -- Annika Sorenstam started her quest for a fourth consecutive Mizuno Classic title with an eagle today and held a share of the lead after the first round.

The top-ranked Swede carded a 63 and was tied with Japan's Chihiro Nakajima at 9-under at the $1 million LPGA Tour event.

The pair was three strokes ahead of Rachel Teske and Aree Song at 66.

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