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Wetterich leads Honda |

Wetterich leads Honda

| Saturday, March 12, 2005 12:00 a.m

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Seeking his first tournament title since 1998, Lee Janzen figures a new putting stroke gives him a shot.

The two-time U.S. Open champion shot an 8-under-par 64 Friday and trailed leader Brett Wetterich by one shot after two rounds at the Honda Classic. Wetterich, an 11-year pro who couldn’t recall leading a tournament before, shot his second successive 66 for a 12-under total of 132.

Janzen has spent plenty of time on a leaderboard but endured a long putting slump.

“It got to the point where it ruined the rest of my game,” he said. “I had no confidence in my putting. There were a lot of bad rounds on Saturdays and Sundays when I was in contention.”

After changing his grip, stance and putter, Janzen figures this weekend might be different. He surged into contention by making five putts of 15 to 35 feet.

“You become impatient to win again,” he said. “It has been very frustrating. But I haven’t given up hope.”

Wetterich, relegated to the Nationwide Tour in 2003-04, rejoined the PGA Tour in January and survived a cut for the first time this year two weeks ago at Tucson. His best career finish was an eighth-place tie at the Honda in 2002.

“I look back and see how bad I was for a while,” said Wetterich, who lives 10 minutes from the tournament site. “It’s nice to be able to look back and see how far I’ve come since I first turned professional.”

Wetterich played the first 36 holes without a bogey and averaged 293 yards off the tee, the best in the field. He overtook first-round leader Chad Campbell, who bogeyed two of the final four holes, shot 71 and was third at 9 under.

Tied with Campbell was Robert Damron, who shot 65. Nick Watney shot 68 for the second day in a row and was alone at 8 under.

Vijay Singh, whose six-month reign at No. 1 ended when Tiger Woods supplanted him last week, shot 69 and was 4 under. Singh is the lone player entered among the top six.

Also 4 under were Davis Love III (69), runner-up the past two years, and 2004 champion Todd Hamilton (71).

Padraig Harrington (69) and David Toms (71) were at 2 under. Kevin Na, at 21 the youngest player on the tour, shot 69 for the second day in a row and was tied for ninth.

With greens still soft from three inches of rain Wednesday, there were again plenty of low scores on the long Country Club at Mirasol course. Hamilton won last year at 12 under, and Wetterich matched that mark with a birdie on his 36th hole.

Janzen started the second round on the back nine and was just 1 under for the day through 10 holes. But beginning at No. 4, he played five holes in 6 under, including an eagle 3 when he sank a 20-foot putt on No. 5.

After hitting his final tee shot, he added up his score and realized he needed only a par for 29 on the front side. He got it.

“I was kind of surprised that I was 7 under for the nine holes and I didn’t even realize it,” he said. “I guess if you’re going to ask a sports psychologist, they would love to hear that I was not keeping track of my score, just trying to hit my shots.”

Janzen had that kind of focus when he won the U.S. Open in 1993 and 1998 — his most recent tournament title. He also won the Players Championship in 1995.

The 40-year-old Minnesota native missed the cut in his first two events this year, then finished tied for 65th at Pebble Peach and tied for 13th at the rain-shortened Nissan Open.

With a longer putter and more erect stance, he said, putts are falling again. He has hit just 51 in 36 holes.

“I’ve worked very hard on my putting for the past 10 months or so, and I feel really good about it,” he said. “I think that I’m putting about as well as I’ve ever putted in my career.”

He’ll match his hot putter against Wetterich’s big driver in the final pairing today. For Wetterich, it’ll be the largest gallery since he was paired with 15-year-old Michelle Wie at the Sony Open in January.

“It’s nice to be in a position where you have a chance to shoot a couple of good rounds, and maybe change your life,” Wetterich said.

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