Kaname Yokoo doesn't have a flashy smile or wear extravagant hats like some of the more popular Japanese stars. He'll settle for the 36-hole lead in the National Car Rental Classic.
Yokoo, a PGA Tour rookie who made it through qualifying school on his first try, made another breakthrough Friday at Disney World with a 7-under 65 that gave him a one-stroke lead over Jerry Smith.
Yokoo was at 131 heading into today's third round (3:30 p.m., ESPN). Keeping the lead will be far more difficult, especially with the low scores the Palm and Magnolia courses have yielded over the first two days. The cut was 139, the lowest in the 23 years of stroke play at Disney.
Still, Yokoo has been better than everyone else -- Davis Love III, David Toms, Vijay Singh and even Tiger Woods.
"If I can keep playing like I played today and yesterday, then I have a chance," Yokoo said through his interpreter. "I'm afraid to go to sleep. My swing might change."
The greater fear is glancing over his shoulder at the cast of characters behind him. Love made a birdie from the trees on the 18th hole for a 66 that left him two strokes back, along with Jose Coceres of Argentina.
Woods blistered a 360-yard drive on the 18th at Magnolia. Even though he had to settle for par, some tinkering with his swing Thursday evening showed signs of paying off, and a 67 left him only five strokes out of the lead.
"By Sunday, he might be caught up to me," Yokoo said of Woods.
Yokoo, who has won each of the past three years on the Japanese tour, secured his PGA Tour card for next year with a tie for sixth in the Texas Open three weeks ago, his best finish in America and his third top 10 of the year.
He will be paired today with Smith, a 37-year-old from Iowa who is 120th on the money list and is grinding to finish the year in the top 125 on the money list.
"You're always sort of aware, and everybody asks you about it," Smith said after his second straight 66. "I've really tried to just say, 'Hey, I don't care what happens.' It has played out very well for me. I've gotten myself back into the number, but I've got three weeks left."
Love played his second bogey-free round, a 65 capped off by an unusual birdie on the 18th at Magnolia. He hit one of his few poor drives that hit a spectator in the back and landed in the rough, leaving him a 6-foot-wide gap between the trees.
He chased a 5-iron through the trees and it hopped up to the green, leaving him 10 feet for a birdie.
"I've been hitting a few sand wedges about 40 feet from the fairway. Maybe I needed an obstacle to go around to get it that close," Love said.
Woods just needed a few putts to fall.
Asked the distance on the drive at No. 18, Woods replied, "All I know is I hit a shot in there pin-high and missed the putt."
"That's the way it is sometimes," Woods said. "You hit good shots and don't make a putt, hit a bad shot and make a bomb."
Around the links
Gary McCord made six birdies in an eight-hole stretch en route to 9-under 63 and a two-stroke lead after the first round of the SBC Championship in San Antonio. McCord, the CBS announcer seeking his second career Senior PGA Tour title, matched the tournament record on The Dominion Country Club course set last year by Fred Gibson. Bobby Wadkins opened with a 65, and Bruce Fleisher shot a 66. Defending champion Doug Tewell stood at 67, tied with Larry Nelson, Bruce Lietzke, Mike Smith and Bob Murphy. Jim Thorpe is at 68.
Ireland's Paul McGinley had consecutive eagles in a round of 8-under 64 on the Old Course at St. Andrews to take a two-stroke lead in the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland. Zimbabwe's Tony Johnstone (66) and England's Brian Davis (68) were tied for second. Ernie Els and Omar Sandys, who also shared the lead after the first round, slipped back, Els with a 70 and Sandys a 71. U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen shot a second straight 69.