Reprinted from Friday's editions
Australian Adam Scott had never set a spiked shoe on TPC at Avenel until his practice round Tuesday. His practice partner and friend, Charles Howell III, said he helped his former college rival safely navigate his way around several holes, and in Friday's second round of the Booz Allen Classic, Scott demonstrated he was definitely paying attention. He ended with 9-under-par 62 and set a tournament 36-hole record of 14-under 128.
"I should have told [Scott] a few other things, like where not to hit it," said Howell, who added a 69 to his course-record first-round 61 and was tied for second in the tournament with Washington native Olin Browne (66) at 12-under 130. "You know, all the young players seem to get along very well. There doesn't seem to be this rivalry or animosity thing, or anything like that."
Much later in the afternoon, Scott's lead, and a PGA Tour scoring record, was threatened by journeyman Glen Day, who finished off his own 62 after a two-hour thunderstorm delay. Day was at 12 under for his round through 15 holes before the stoppage, but completed his last three holes in 1 over and had to settle for a tie for fourth with 1999 champion Rich Beem (67) at 11-under 131.
With one career PGA Tour victory, Day needed birdies on two of his last three holes to join Al Geiberger, Chip Beck and David Duval -- and the LPGA's Annika Sorenstam -- as the only pros to shoot 59 in tournament play.
He said those thoughts never entered his mind when he came back on the course, only because his drive landed in the rough at the 461-yard No. 7 before he had to go back to the clubhouse during the storm. He figured he would be fortunate to make a par there, then almost holed out a bunker shot for birdie that hit the flag and dropped to within an inch of the cup. A three-putt bogey from 50 feet at No. 8 ended his chances.
"I would have enjoyed the last three holes without the delay," he said. "That's not saying that I may have had a chance to do something great, or not, but it was there. We got the delay, and when we came back out, it was just kind of like, 'Okay, let's finish this, get a putt at it and go on.' "
When Browne, who attended St. Albans, and Howell finished, both had temporarily tied the previous 36-hole record of 130 set by Fred Funk in 1998. Scott, the Players Championship winner in March, shattered that mark by two shots 45 minutes later when he completed his second round with four birdies on his final six holes.
"At the start of the week, I thought there were birdies out there," said Scott, a 23-year-old rising star who played at Nevada-Las Vegas. "I hit every green today. This week, it's been pretty solid and I would have to say I left a few out there [on Thursday], but obviously made up for them today."
For a second straight day, Avenel was vulnerable to a birdie barrage from most in the field. Two days of rain earlier in the week had softened the greens, and with virtually no breeze and putting surfaces many players have said are the best in tournament history, the course was vulnerable.
Scott's 128 also was the lowest opening 36 holes of any PGA Tour event this season by a shot, though his 14-under total was not the best start of the year in relation to par. Danny Ellis opened with a 15-under 129 at English Turn in New Orleans in April on a par-72 course. Ellis then shot 82-75 on the weekend and was 71st in the field.
Scott, No. 15 in the world rankings and coached by Butch Harmon, Tiger Woods's former teacher, likely will not suffer a similar fate.
"He's a fantastic player," said Howell, 25, who was 14 under the first two days in New Orleans and eventually tied for fifth, his best showing of the year. "It should be fun. I would say that to win this golf tournament, no matter who it is, they're going to have a very good weekend out here."
No matter what happens, Browne likely will have his best weekend of what has been a dismal 2004 season. A two-time tour winner, Browne, 35, was out of the top 125 on the money list last year for the first time since 1996. He has missed the cut in eight of his last nine tournaments, with a tie for 34th in Tucson his best result in 14 events.
"I've struggled with my game for the last year and a half really," said Browne, who didn't start playing golf until he was 19. "Starting late, my swing is not technically perfect. . . . Then you go and see somebody and they try to put you in a good position, but it's not comfortable for me. . . . A lot of the stuff I've been doing helps me identify the things I've done well in the past. I feel like I'm starting to do those things again. Maybe that can carry over to the weekend."
Browne lives in Hobe Sound, Fla., and is staying with his family at his mother's home in Northwest Washington.
"It's a friendly place for me," he said. "I've got a lot of family and friends here who come out and watch and cheer me on. That's encouraging. It's an easy week. I don't have to worry about hotels, restaurants, where I'm doing my laundry. On the other hand, I'm hustling tickets, but I'll take it that way anytime."
Browne had five birdies on a bogey-free round, and his longest of five birdie putts came from only five feet at the 444-yard 18th, his ninth of the day. He pushed toward the top with a run of three birdies in four holes in the middle of his back nine, and was off to his best start of the season.
"Two days in a row" in the media room, he said. "It's a trend."
Howell, like Scott considered among the most promising young players in the game, was back for another interrogation, too, even if his putter had cooled considerably from that stunning 61. On Thursday, he needed only 26 putts; Friday it was 30, even if he missed just three greens in regulation all day. Howell birdied two of his first three on the back nine, but missed 10-footers for birdie at 13 and 14.
"As easy as yesterday seemed, today seemed a bit of a grind," said Howell, an Oklahoma State standout. "Any time you shoot 10 under, there's still a weird feeling about the following day. I've got a chance here going into the weekend, which is something I have not been able to say very often this year."