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Mobile Phones Frustrate Razor Sharp Tiger Woods
Day two of Thailand's Johnnie Walker Classic golf tournament

November 17, 2000
Web posted at 8:40 p.m. Hong Kong time, 7:40 a.m. EDT

Tiger Woods Gets Unwelcome Homecoming in Thailand

The world's number one golfer is chasing his 10th victory this year -- but is copping some flak

Tiger Woods was hot. But Sergio Garcia was hotter. Woods took command of the Johnnie Walker Classic golf tournament in Bangkok on Friday, shooting a sizzling 65 to put him on top of the leaderboard at 11-under-par at the midway point in the contest. Garcia, however, bested him by one stroke for the day, firing off a round of 64 that included a stretch of five straight birdies. Not far behind were a pack of Europe's best, including Sweden's Jesper Parnevik and Scotland's Paul Lawrie.

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Woods, dressed completely in black, was relaxed and smiling as he began reeling off birdies early in the round. "I feel like I'm really starting to hit it crisp again," he said. "Every shot is in the middle of the blade." His lone mistake of the day came on the par-3 sixth. After his six-iron sailed past the teardrop- shaped green, Woods choked his chip from the rough. As it fell short of the fringe, he took a backhand swipe with his sand wedge in disgust. "It was a tough lie and I didn't know if it would come out hot or soft, so I protected it and played a real safe shot but it didn't really get out and I had to chip again," he said. The second chip, and a putt, left him with his sole bogey of the day. Otherwise, Woods played a razor-sharp round. His iron play was superb, with most of his approach shots leaving him birdie opportunities that he was able to capitalize on eight times.

Woods had only one frustration on Friday -- mobile phones. They rang with annoying frequency among the crowd at the private Alpine Golf and Sports Club, which is owned by Thaksin Shinawatra, a candidate for Prime Minister in the upcoming elections whose $2 billion commercial empire is built on the mobile- phone business. Many of the spectators, members of the Thai social elite, simply ignored the large signs posted all over the course instructing fans to turn off their phones, and jabbered away while players were poised over their shots. Woods backed off putts three times, once glaring long and hard at an offender in the crowd. "It was a lot worse today. They got Michael on his downswing a few times," said Woods, referring to playing partner Michael Campbell of New Zealand, who scored a 67 to leave him 6 under for the tournament and tied for sixth.

Garcia, meanwhile, wasn't bothered either by the phones or the intermittent roar of 747s approaching nearby Don Muang International Airport. After a disappointing opening round of 74 that included a disastrous eight on the 11th hole when his approach shot hit a rock and ricocheted into the water, Garcia caught fire on Friday. The 20-year-old Spaniard eagled the par-5, 555-yard 5th hole, and added six more birdies on his way to an 8-under-par 64. "I really felt well today. It will be really great if I'm playing with Tiger on Sunday," he said.

Garcia will have plenty of competition for a spot in that coveted pairing. At the end of the second round, unheralded Rodney Pampling of Australia was on Woods' heels at 10-under-par, having shot 68 on Thursday and a 66 on Friday. Geoff Ogilvy of Australia, who finished second at last year's Johnnie Walker Classic, was in second place again, two shots behind Woods at 9-under-par, as was Wayne Ogilvy, also of Australia. Former British Open champion Paul Lawrie of Scotland and Paul Gow of Australia followed at 8 under, while Sweden's Parnevik finished at 7 under. Parnevik, who had hip surgery at the end of September, said Friday's 65 was his best round since going under the knife. "Rehab went so well that the doctor said I would not hurt it by playing. I wanted to finish off the season playing as opposed to resting," Parnevik said.

After Friday's round, Woods gave a golf clinic for 38 children from the Young Thai Golfer's Association, demonstrating his repertoire of shots, answering questions, and entertaining the crowd. The night before he auctioned off an autographed golf bag to help raise money to save Thailand's elephants. About 4,000 elephants remain in Thailand, despite the fact the animal is the country's national symbol. The charity dinner was attended by HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana, sister of Thailand's constitutional monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. More than $80,000 was raised.

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