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In his colorful shirts, Woody Austin is always easy to spot on the golf course. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
In his colorful shirts, Woody Austin is always easy to spot on the golf course. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

In good shape, Austin's disappointed he's not leading

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Thinking negatively as always, Woody Austin made a very positive move up the leaderboard Friday. Even though he bemoaned his loose shots, missed putts and overall lack of success, he's in the thick of things heading into the weekend.

By Helen Ross, Chief of Correspondents

TULSA, Okla. -- Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the ever-optimistic seminarian, would have had a field day with Woody Austin.

Austin was at his negative-thinking best on Friday, even after he fired an even-par 70 on a demanding Southern Hills layout during the second round of the PGA Championship. Not even the knowledge that he's two strokes off the lead could change his mind.

"The big talk about majors is you can't win the tournament on Thursday and Friday, but you can lose it," Austin explained. "Well, I feel like I've lost a great opportunity to be out front because I've had way too many chances.

"When you're someone in my position who has never won a major, never won one of these big events, you can't throw away all of these opportunities. I don't have that luxury. There is somebody that has that luxury but it's not me."

Another Woods-y, as in Tiger, might, allowed Austin. But the three-time PGA TOUR champion felt he simply missed too many 10- and 15-footers over the first two rounds to be satisfied with his play. He hasn't made a birdie putt over 3 feet, either.

"I'm disappointed right now," Austin said. "But I'm always that way after a round. It's such a mental grind (out there). I'm still in the round right now, and you know, in an hour or so, I'll be fine. I'll calm down."

Austin, who won the Stanford St. Jude Classic earlier this year, is the classic glass-half-full-kind-of guy, yet he's blessed with a self-deprecating wit that can be disarming at times.

For example, Austin is known for the colorful and, sometimes, garish shirts that he wears. Friday's was adorned with pin flags stuck in martini glasses separated by Tabasco logos. Asked whether he ever refused to wear one, Austin said, "only the plain ones.

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"Anyone can wear a white shirt," he said. "At least, I don't wear lavender purple shirts with white belts. At least I'm not wearing from head-to-toe in pink with pink shoes and matching tassels."

OK. So Austin will never be confused with Ian Poulter.

The former bank teller was rookie of the year in 1995, and he's carved out a comfortable living on TOUR, earning more than $10 million. The 43-year-old still hasn't met his own expectations, though, and sometimes he's brutally honest in that assessment.

"I like to look at it this way," Austin explained. "If you're not happy with your job, if you don't feel as though you're getting 100 percent out of what you put in or what you do for your job, are you supposed to be happy?

"I feel as though ...
you've only seen half of what I have. Fifty percent isn't good enough far as I'm concerned. At my age now, I'm never going to be able to show you how good I know I was, but you still don't see how good I really am, and that's disappointing.

"And, therefore, I'm not going to sit here and lie and say, 'oh, yeah, this is all great,' when I know that I'm better."

Still, few people played better than Austin on Friday in the sweltering heat on a stubborn and stingy Southern Hills layout.

He made one birdie putt of 18 inches and chipped in for another after his wedge spun off the green and rolled 30 yards back into the fairway. He fought through a three-putt at No. 2 and came back after his tee shot at the 13th found a creek and settled right next to a big dead frog.

Austin was quick to point out that he couldn't have killed the unfortunate amphibian.

"I was told that (the ball) rolled off the tree, so the tree actually caused the problem. It rolled off the tree and into the creek," he said. "And that was an awful big frog for me to kill. That guy was huge."

Austin pulled the ball out of the water with his sand wedge and went on with his business. He hit 71 percent of his fairways, 61 percent of his greens in regulation and took just 29 putts for the second day. He refused to let the oppressive heat get him down, either.

"I guess the hardest part is to get over how your shirt weighs five pounds when you're done," Austin said.

He'll go to the first tee on Saturday morning with the same attitude he has had each of the last two rounds. Play golf like he knows he can and if he starts making some putts, who knows what can happen? He won't be consulting a sports psychologist, though.

"I can't change who I am," Austin said. "Why would I try? Again, I'm trying to, I guess, trick myself. Well, I'm not very good at being tricked. So I am who I am. I try not to be anybody different.

"I remember Lee Trevino saying that everyone had a shortcoming. You know, his was he couldn't hit the ball right to left in his prime. ...
Mine is the fact that I'm just a very nervous, energetic person. Unfortunately for me, it's hard for me to rein it all in."

Austin gets rid of that nervous energy by playing basketball or softball back home in Derby, Kan. When he's on the golf course, the transplanted Floridian has some breathing exercises that he uses to help calm the twitches on the putting green.

"(But) you can only hide so much," Austin said. "Just like anything, based on the condition of the putt as far as is it, you know, is it Thursday, Friday; is it for par or birdie; our levels change.

"If you've got an 8-footer for birdie, you're not going to be as charged or nervous if it's as if it's for par if you miss so many, because the par putt means a lot more than the birdie does because you don't want to lose shots, so your levels change."

And as Austin knows, those pars will become even dearer as the pressure mounts this weekend at this sauna of a golf course called Southern Hills.

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