PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Nick Watney is playing so well that he doesn’t even realize it.

Coming off a wrenching one-shot loss to Phil Mickelson at Doral, Watney kept right on rolling Friday with a 4-under 67 at the Transitions Championship to share the 36-hole lead with Steve Stricker.

“I guess I’m playing very well, but it really seems like this is just what I’m supposed to be doing,” Watney said.

It will be the third straight weekend round that Watney will be in the final group. He played with Mickelson the last two rounds at the CA Championship, and it might not get any easier at Innisbrook.

Stricker, who also had a bogey-free 67, is playing quite well this year, too.

Take away one bad patch – a 77 in the last round to lose the Bob Hope Classic, followed by a missed cut in Phoenix – and Stricker has shot par or better in every round this year. This was his 10th straight sub-par round.

“I know that I’ve been playing well,” Stricker said. “I know I’ve been shooting some good scores. But no, I haven’t paid attention to that. I look at my stats and I realize I was up there in the stroke average. Obviously, I must have been shooting some decent scores.”

They were at 6-under 136 on a Copperhead Course that is among the strongest tests on tour. It has become even tougher with sunshine that is baking out the greens and strong wind in the afternoon that makes it field more like June than the Florida swing.

The bigger problem is finding separation at a tournament that doesn’t seem to allow it. Some two dozen players were within four shots of the lead going into the weekend.

Jonathan Byrd reached 8 under through 11 holes until he kept finding the bunker and making bogeys. He had to settle for a 70 and joined Howell in the group at 137 that included two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen (68), Stuart Appleby (67) and former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman (69), who turned 50 last week.

Furyk opened with a 65 for his first lead on the PGA Tour in nearly 20 months. He was 13 shots worse on Friday while playing in the afternoon, and had to two-putt from 30 feet on his final hole simply to make the cut. He wound up with a 78 to finish at 1-over 143.

Ryo Ishikawa, the 17-year-old from Japan, had a 73 to finish at even-par 142 and make his first PGA Tour cut. He missed the cut in his PGA Tour debut last month at Riviera.

Masters champion Trevor Immelman had consecutive sub-par rounds for the first time since the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship, shooting a 70 to join the group at 4-under 138 that included Rich Beem and Steve Flesch, who each had 67.

LPGA Tour

HUXQUILUCAN, Mexico – Lorena Ochoa is back home in Mexico and leading the Mastercard Classic.

The LPGA’s No. 1 player shot a 7-under 65 on on the hilly BosqueReal course outside Mexico City that has often gotten the best of her.

She sailed through the difficult course with five birdies and an eagle on the 541-yard ninth hole. She held a two-stroke lead over Na Yeon Choi.

Brittany Lang and Yani Tseng shot 68s.

and were tied for third.


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