Second-round leader Mike Weir raised his ball to the crowd after closing his day with a birdie.
Canadians take lead at Kapalua
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KAPALUA, Maui » The second-round leaderboard wasn't filled with as many new faces at the $5.5 million Mercedes-Benz Championship.
With conditions more reasonable than Thursday's sideways rain showers that pelted the Plantation Course, the world's top golfers hit enough fairways and greens yesterday to produce 10 rounds in the 60s as things tightened up in this winners-only event.
Mike Weir produced the first and only eagle of the PGA Tour season and rode it to the top of the leaderboard. His 6-under 67 left him at 8-under 138 for the tournament, one shot clear of fellow Canadian Stephen Ames (67) and American Jonathan Byrd (69).
There are 10 golfers within three shots of the lead and 16 within five as many of the recognizable faces played their way into contention, including Mark Calcavecchia (66--141), U.S. Open winner Angel Cabrera (71--141) and Masters champion Zach Johnson (67--143).
Even Jim Furyk (70) and defending champion Vijay Singh (70) are still within shouting distance at 2-under 144, leaving local golf fans with a lot to cheer for over the coming weekend.
So what led to a scoring average of 70.645 after an opening-day total of 73.645?
"I think it was that the wind was down a little more," Weir said. "The conditions were calmer. It's easier to putt when it's not blowing so hard. So I think that's why there were more birdies out there."
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KAPALUA, Maui » Starting today's third round of the $5.5 million Mercedes-Benz Championship with "O Canada" might be more appropriate than "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Canadians Mike Weir and Stephen Ames have the snow birds out in force after both golfers fired 6-under 67s yesterday that left Weir in first with a two-day total of 8-under 138 and Ames tied for second with Jonathan Byrd (69) a shot back at 7-under 139.
Both will be in the final group today, guaranteeing that the largest and most vocal gallery will be following this popular twosome around the hilly Plantation Course. The weather held for most of the day, producing some nice numbers among the 31 golfers, including 10 rounds in the 60s after only two the opening day.
As well as Weir and Ames handled the par-73 course, senior citizen Mark Calcavecchia had the best round of the year with a 7-under 66 that included nine birdies. It left him in a log jam for sixth at 5-under 141 after 36 holes.
First-day leader Nick Watney (72) and Brandt Snedeker (69) were tied for fourth, two shots off the pace at 6-under 140 with Justin Leonard (68), Aaron Baddeley (71), U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera (71) and Daniel Chopra (72) joining Calcavecchia in a tie for sixth.
There were 16 golfers within five shots of the lead, including Masters champion Zach Johnson, who came out of hibernation to shoot a 6-under 67. With the wind down and the sun out for most of the round, this elite field is tightly bunched entering the weekend, giving this winners-only tournament some much-needed excitement.
"I guess the winters are pretty bad in Canada," Weir said, then smiled. "There are more Canadians down here than normal. We should have a pretty good day tomorrow. It's been a while since I've been here, obviously. Yeah, three and a half years was a long time to wait (between victories).
"It was a tough few years, but I feel like things are back on track. And yeah, it was great to win (Fry's Electronics Open in Las Vegas) and play so well at the end of the year. It was real important for my confidence, so I feel good about this year."
Ames also got a win late in the season at the Children's Miracle Network Classic for his third PGA Tour victory. Unlike Weir, Ames has been in Hawaii since Dec. 20 with his family. And while he's glad to get a round or two of golf in, his family would prefer he remain by the pool.
"No, this is a family vacation," Ames said when asked if he had acclimated himself to the island conditions. "It's still a family vacation. Golf is getting in the way."
Ames believes most of the gallery will be following him and Weir, which could leave things a little quiet for the rest of the field. Snedeker made the most noise early on with a 5-under 31 on the front, but much like Thursday, the back nine wasn't as kind as he bogeyed the 18th to finish 1 over on the last nine holes.
Byrd got into the picture by shooting 3 under on the back nine after managing two birdies and a bogey on the front. Watney was relatively quiet after an opening round of 67, but old pros Calcavecchia and Leonard shot themselves into contention and could prove formidable over the weekend.
"I got off to a nice start compared to yesterday," Leonard said. "I was 3 over through seven. Today I was 3 under through seven. I hit the ball well, putted well and would like to have made a couple putts coming in the last four holes. I had a couple of nice chances, but I'm pleased with the day."
Calcavecchia also enjoyed his 7-under round of golf. He had a couple of three putts lead to bogeys at Nos. 4 and 11, but he opened with three consecutive birdies en route to shooting 31 on the front and 35 on the back.
"The main difference was it was a lot easier to play, not a downpour every 5 minutes," Calcavecchia said. "And it wasn't quite as windy. So scoring is quite a bit better today for everybody. For me, I made putts today. I putted great. It was just a much better day overall."