Brit puts hero worship aside

SUN WIRE SERVICES

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

At Dubai, United Arab Emirates, eight years ago, Ross Fisher was fetching balls for Tiger Woods on the practice range. Now, the Englishman holds a five-shot lead over the defending champion entering the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic.

Fisher shot a second straight 7-under-par 65 yesterday and was at 14-under halfway through the tournament. Woods struggled with his putting again and finished with a 67 to stand at 9-under.

"It was kind of weird," Woods said. "I just didn't feel like I made many putts (yesterday). I was all around the hole and most of them were actually misreads."

Three-time Desert Classic winner Ernie Els climbed within two strokes of the lead with an eagle on the 13th hole. The second round was cut short because of darkness at Emirates Golf Club after a rare Dubai thunderstorm delayed play for more than two hours. Fisher held a four-stroke clubhouse lead over Peter Hanson and Graeme McDowell.

"I'm hitting the ball probably as good as I've ever hit it," said Fisher, who had eight birdies and a bogey. "It would be tough to have a third 65, but you know it's out there if you play well."

The Desert Classic is just the second tournament in which Fisher has been the leader -- the first was the 2005 China Open. The 26-year-old Englishman described how he'd spent his early years in awe of Woods. He said the closest contact he had with him was when he worked as a teenager on a driving range at the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth in England.

"I've never met him or spoke to him," he said.

Now Fisher faces the possibility of playing alongside Woods tomorrow if they are the top two heading into the final round.

"It would be an absolute thrill to play with the best player in the world," Fisher said. "Obviously, all the pressure is going to be on him because he's expected to win. No one's going to be thinking, 'I think Ross can take this guy on.' I'll try not to watch him too closely because at the end of the day, I'm going to try and beat the guy."

QUINNEY GRABS LEAD: At Scottsdale, Ariz., Jeff Quinney took a long road to the PGA Tour after his U.S. Amateur triumph seven years ago. Now that he's finally made it, he's feeling right at home. The former Arizona State star shot an 8-under 63 to take a three-shot lead before darkness suspended play at the FBR Open. Quinney, a PGA Tour rookie after five years on the Nationwide Tour, was at 13-under 129 through 36 holes after a dominating second round under bright sunshine on the TPC Scottsdale course. Billy Mayfair and Bart Bryant were three shots back at 10-under 132 after 66s. Mike Weir of Bright's Grove shot 69 and was tied for 42nd at 3-under 139. Stephen Ames of Calgary also carded 69, but because of a rough first round he was under the projected cut line of 2-under at even 142. Jim Rutledge of Victoria struggled to a round of 73 and was 5-over after two rounds.

WEBB UP DOWN UNDER At Sydney, Karrie Webb shot a 1-under-par 71 to take a one-stroke lead after two rounds of the Women's Australian Open.

U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN TO USE PLAYOFF: The U.S. Women's Open will use a three-hole playoff format starting this year, leaving the U.S. Open as the only major championship with an 18-hole playoff. Annika Sorenstam defeated Pat Hurst in an 18-hole playoff last year at Newport Country Club, the 10th time a Women's Open had been decided that way in its 61-year history.


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