Van Pelt takes lead after tying course record


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The fun started early again for Bo Van Pelt, with birdies on the first two holes for the second straight day. This time, he kept it going.

Van Pelt broke the 36-hole record in the Wachovia Championship, tying the Quail Hollow course mark in the process with an 8-under 64 Friday. He had a 10-under 134 total for a three-shot lead over former U.S. Open champ Jim Furyk, with Davis Love III another stroke back.

Play was suspended for about 90 minutes during the afternoon due to thundershowers, then called off for good about 30 minutes after it resumed when more bad weather moved through. Seventy-four players will have to come back Saturday morning to complete their rounds.

Van Pelt matched the 64 shot by Kirk Triplett in the first round of the inaugural event in 2003.

“I was concentrating when I was out there, but it’s always fun when you feel like you’ve got control over your golf ball,” said Van Pelt, still looking for his first career victory. “You know, you feel like you can work it the way you want to work it. They rhythm with my putter felt really good, so that always helps.”

And his choice of attire might have helped, too. Van Pelt donned bright orange pants, a look that would seem more likely on a snazzy dresser such as Jesper Parnevik.

“I guess I felt the heat,” Van Pelt said. “I put on these orange pants, and I felt like I really better play good or I was going to get made fun of.”

No chance of that now. He finished off his round in style, narrowly missing a birdie at the difficult par-4 16th before making one of only nine on the 17th, a devilish par 3 that plays at 217 yards to a peninsula green. With the pin only four paces in from the left – and about five paces from the water – Van Pelt hit a 5-iron within 6 feet.

He added a sand save on the finishing hole to complete his round.

“It’s not the end all, be all, but obviously I want to win,” Van Pelt said. “It would mean a lot.”

To do so, he needs to hold off a stellar field that includes eight of the 10 players in the world. Tiger Woods is missing, having already decided to skip the tournament for the first time in three years to be with his father, Earl, who died of cancer earlier in the week.

Furyk, who shared the first round lead with three other players, got to 9 under before some problems late, with bogeys at 16 and 17 spoiling his day a bit. He finished with a 69.

“Yeah, I’m disappointed,” Furyk said. “I felt like in my mind I should have played those holes better. If those bogeys come at 4 and 13, you know, none of us would think twice about it. They just happened to come at 16 and 17.”

Defending champ Vijay Singh was five shots behind after a 68 to leave him at 5-under 139, tied for the moment with rookie Bill Haas, who had completed only eight holes before the round was suspended. Trevor Immelman, Stuart Appleby and Vaughn Taylor all were another stroke back and still on the course, too.

“The golf course is a driving golf course, so you drive the ball and you can give yourself chances at birdies, like I did,” said Singh, who beat Furyk and Sergio Garcia in a playoff last year. “No matter which way you do it, you’ve got to put the ball in the fairway.”

Love didn’t do that very well – he found the short grass on only six of the 14 driving holes – but he got away with it. He had three birdies to offset two bogeys on the front, then finished the back nine without another bogey to match his score of 69 from the first round.

Winless since 2003, when he won four times, Love is trying to put less pressure on himself these days.

“I think I’ve been trying too hard, obviously trying to win majors and trying to make Presidents Cup teams and Ryder Cup teams,” he said. “I felt like the last two days, I went out and played and had fun and enjoyed myself, and got into playing golf.”

Of course, no one really had as much fun as Van Pelt. He wasn’t quite sure what color his pants were going to be Saturday when he played the third round in the final group, but he does have a pair of yellow ones left.

Perhaps he should save those for Sunday.

“I’m pretty much a khaki and white shirt guy, pretty bland,” Van Pelt said. “Maybe I ought to wear them more often.”

Divots: The projected cut was at 2 over, with 82 players at that number. … Early in the day, Augusta National Golf Club announced Hootie Johnson was stepping down as chairman, with Billy Payne replacing him. “I know Billy real well, and he’ll do a great job,” Love said. “He’ll be very decisive and he’ll make the club fun. I hope I get a green jacket out of Billy Payne.” … There was a slight shower in the morning, but play continued. Furyk said he had his umbrella out for maybe three minutes, and it hardly affected anything.

AP-ES-05-05-06 1907EDT