Casey hits back as Tiger hangs in

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Paul Casey had stormed into the lead with a stunning 7-under 64 at the Frys.com Open when bad light ended the 2nd round.

Paul Casey had stormed into the lead with a stunning 7-under 64 at the Frys.com Open when bad light ended the second round with 48 players still out on the course.

Tiger Woods, who after an opening with a hugely disappointing 2-over 73, was not one of them.

The 14-time major winner, who has fallen from No 1 to No 51 in the World Rankings, was back in the clubhouse, smiling, after a fight-back 68 had hosted him to just seven shots off the pace and put him in position to safely make the cut.

Early morning fog and the delay it caused at the start of the round was the cause of the premature suspension of Friday’s second round.

England’s World No 20, Casey, in the meantime had used the sparkling sunny weather that followed the fog at the CordeValle Golf resort in Northern California to craft eight birdies against just one bogey, take his halfway total to an 8-under 134 and lift him one shot clear of unheralded American Bud Cauley, who shot a six-birdie 66 to be at 7-under and three-time major winner Ernie Els who was at 5-under for the day with two holes to play as he honed his competitiveness ahead of the Presidents Cup.

The pair in turn were a shot clear of Garrett Willis who had shot a second round 69, fellow American Troy Matteson who had two holes to play and Australian Nathan Green who will have only the 18th to negotiate when the second round is completed on Saturday morning.

Case’s heroics come hard on the heels of his victory at the Korean Golf Tour’s Shinhan Donghae Open last weekend and is a clear indication that he has rediscovered some of the missing magic he lost when injury took its toll earlier this season.

He was clearly upbeat after his charge up he leaderboard after only recently overcoming his long-lingering toe injury.

“It’s probably the best I’ve hit the golf ball all year,” he said after deciding to return to the PGA Tour for the next two weeks to complete the minimum 15 events required to maintain his card for next season.

“Even though the toe isn’t 100 percent, it’s great news. I’ve had it since late May. It was a joint in my foot which wasn’t allowing my foot to move correctly and that put pressure on my toe.

“My goal right now is to get healthy, and I am probably about 70 percent (fully fit). 2011 has been a frustrating year.”

The English Ryder Cupper began the day three strokes off the pace but he set the tone for his round early inn his round when he rolled in a great 28-foot putt from just off the green to birdie the par-three 11th, his second hole.

After offsetting another birdie at the 13th with his lone bogey at the next, he picked up further shots at the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes to sprint to the turn in a five-under 31.

Casey, who in total sank three birdie putts from more than 24 feet during the round, next rolled in a seven-footer to birdie the par-four sixth and claim the outright lead at seven under.

The 34-year-old very nearly birdied the eighth, his long-range attempt ramming the back of the cup before lipping out, but he signed off in style with a two-putt birdie at the par-five ninth.

“On my back nine, my front nine this morning, the greens were perfect,” Casey said. “You’re not going to get greens any better than that.

“My ball striking is coming back. It’s by no means perfect but it’s nice to look up and know that the golf ball is actually going in the direction that I wasn’t to go in, which hasn’t happened in a really long time.”

And the Woods story on Friday? What made the difference?

Having struggled on the greens in mainly wet and cold conditions the previous day, Woods managed six birdies in the sunshine on Saturday and although they were nullified to some extent by three bogeys his eventual one-under halfway total should safely take him into the weekend’s play if the projected cut remains at even par.

“I don’t like missing cuts, period,” said Woods whose last cut was made at the Masters in April.

“I’ve got a shot at it this weekend.

“Today I didn’t hit the ball as good as I did yesterday but I putted better. That was a good positive.

“My ‘feels’ are coming back,” said Woods, who has not competed since he missed the cut at the PGA Championship in August.

“All the balls are pin high which is a very good sign.”

TOP 10 LEADERBOARD

-8 Paul Casey (Eng) (36) 70 64
-7 Bud Cauley (USA) (37) 69 66
-7 Ernie Els (South Africa) 69 (Two holes to play)
-6 Garrett Willis (USA) (36)67 69
-6 Nathan Green (Aus) 72 (2 holes to play)
-6 Troy Matteson (USA) 68
-5 Billy Mayfair (USA) 71 66
-5 Chris Stroud (U.S.) 71 66
-5 Rod Pampling (Aus) 68 69
-5 Nate Smith (USA) 72 65
-5 Briny Baird (USA) 67 (6 holes to play)
-5 Steven Bowditch (Aus) 68 (8 holes to play)

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