While the big names were packing up and leaving town, Steve Flesch, a left-handed rookie who couldn't make it into the Tournament Players Championship two weeks ago, was planning on staying the course.

He carded a 4-under-par 68 Friday for a two-stroke lead after 36 hole of the Freeport-McDermott Classic.Flesch failed to qualify for the Tournament Players Championship two weeks ago and returned to the Nike Tour rather than sit home in snowy Cincinnati.

It paid off. He offset three bogeys with seven birdies for a two-round total of 134 - 10-under and two strokes better than Naomichi "Joe" Ozaki and Duffy Waldorf.

"It's the first time I've ever been in the lead going into the weekend," Flesch said. "I'm thrilled to death."

Flesch has made the cut in five of seven tournaments this year. His best finish was a tie for 15th at the Honda Classic last month.

Four players were at 137, including Mark Wiebe. Four more were another shot behind.

Among the top finishers, only a handful like Waldorf, Ian Woosnam, Wiebe, Steve Lowery, and David Toms had ever won a tournament.

Meanwhile, name players the likes of two-time Masters winner Ben Crenshaw (149), Steve Ballesteros (150), and Jim Thorpe (150), failed to make the cut.

The Tradition

At Scottsdale, Ariz., with the two hottest golfers on the Senior PGA Tour making it tight, Tom Wargo went on his own hot streak Friday to increase his lead in The Tradition.

Wargo went on a birdie binge on the back side of the Cochise course at Desert Mountain, shooting a 67, to take a two-shot lead over defending champion Gil Morgan in the $1.4 million tournament.

Despite carding his first bogey in two days at the 18th hole, Wargo was 9-under-par 135 at the halfway point of the tourney, one of four majors on the Senior PGA Tour.

Morgan fired the day's best round of 66, putting him at 7-under 137. Hale Irwin, the 1997 Senior Player of the Year, was another shot back after his round of 69, and Bob Dickson was four behind.

Longs Drug Challenge

At Lincoln, Calif., Carin Koch, benefiting from improved afternoon weather conditions, shot a 2-under-par 70 on Friday for a three-shot lead after two rounds of the Longs Drugs Challenge.

Koch, a non-winning Swede in her fourth LPGA season, carded 11 straight birdies before making two back-nine birdies as the sun broke through as the leader was en route to her 8-under-par 136 total.

Barb Mucha, whose 65 was the tournament's best round, and Donna Andrews, who carded a 69, were at 5-under-par 139.

Heavy rain pelted the 6,412-yard Twelve Bridges Golf Club during most of the second round. Casual water was common thoughout the course and many tee areas were heavily soaked.