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DiMarco closes in on Singh

Their Ryder Cup experience was so miserable, the magnitude of the United States' loss to Europe so great, Tiger Woods and Kenny Perry decided to pull out of the 84 Lumber Classic. Chris DiMarco didn't, and now he's in contention to win the tournament.

DiMarco, a former University of Florida standout, shook off the disappointment he has felt since last weekend to shoot Friday's best round, a 7-under 65, and put some pressure on leader Vijay Singh, who followed up his opening-round 64 with a steady-as-he-goes 68.

Singh leads 2003 British Open champion Ben Curtis by two shots with DiMarco another stroke back.

Singh actually had a bogey _ his only one in two days _ but opened with two straight birdies and added three more during a round that could have been even better if he hadn't missed several short putts.

Singh, who can set a PGA Tour season money record by winning the $756,000 first prize, liked how he putted despite the results. He blamed several misses on the still-maturing and tough-to-read greens at the 7,471-yard Mystic Rock course, all 18 of which were rebuilt after being criticized by last year's field for being too soft and too easy.

"It's pretty hard to read the greens," he said. "The greens are not settled. And just when you think you've got the right line, after putting you know the line then. I probably had three or four (misses) from inside 8 feet. But I made some long ones to equalize that."

Singh also played when scoring conditions were less favorable, after the Allegheny Mountain winds that gave shots some extra length died down in the afternoon and the greens became chewed up. He was one of the first players on the course Thursday, when he took advantage of prime scoring conditions with an eagle and six birdies for his 64.

"I'm quite happy," Singh said. "I've got the weekend to go and there are a few more chances out there."

DiMarco's 65 also came in the afternoon, after he took advantage of his later starting time to enjoy some much-needed sleep. His 2-1-1 Ryder Cup record was the best of the Americans, but the lopsided 18{-9{ loss to Europe stayed with him for several days and affected his preparation for this weekend.

DiMarco might have withdrawn, as Woods and Perry did, if he hadn't promised four close friends weeks ago he would take them to next weekend's World Golf Championship event in Ireland for free. Joe Hardy, 84 Lumber's fabulously wealthy owner, offered any golfer a free trip for five if he played this weekend en route to Ireland.

The other two U.S. Ryder Cup members both made the cut, with David Toms at 3 under, nine off the lead, and Stewart Cink at 2 under.

CHAMPIONS: Craig Stadler had the answers ready, as if he expected the questions. Yes, the success of his son continues to help him play better. Yes, he got updates on how Kevin was faring in the second round of the Boise Open. And yes, he never focused on his own score in the first round at the SAS Championship in Cary, N.C.

"I walked off the 18th green toward the scoring tent and saw the scoreboard there," Stadler said. "I said, "I did shoot 7 under.' "

That he did, and his 65 was good for a two-shot lead over defending champion D.A. Weibring and Wayne Levi. Stadler is going for his third consecutive victory and fifth of the season, an incredible run that just happened to coincide with the solid play of 24-year-old Kevin on the developmental Nationwide Tour. On Thursday, Kevin shot a 65 in the first round to trail leader Justin Bolli by two shots.

EUROPEAN PGA: Colin Montgomerie shot a 5-over-par 77 and missed the cut at the Heritage in Woburn, England, five days after making the winning putt for Europe at the Ryder Cup. Graeme McDowell shot 68 and Phillip Price 67 to share the second-round lead at 9-under 135. One stroke back were Swedes Patrik Sjoland (68) and Henrik Stenson (67). Montgomerie was at 148 and finished three strokes outside the cut.