Champions Tour star birdies 8 holes
CONOVER, N.C. -- North Carolina has been kind to Bruce Fleisher.
Four of his 18 Champions Tour victories have come in the Tar Heel state, including three straight titles at the Home Depot Invitational in Charlotte from 1999-2001. Fleisher also has won the RJR Championship in Winston-Salem in 2002.
On Saturday, Fleisher moved closer to a fifth victory when he parlayed eight birdies into a tournament-low 65 and cruised to a 3-shot lead after the second round of the Greater Hickory Classic.
"I like North Carolina," Fleisher said. "I like Charlotte and I like Winston-Salem and, hopefully, I can say I like this place, too."
Fleisher hit all 14 fairways at Rock Barn Golf & Spa and used 26 putts to improve to 9-under-par 135 entering Sunday's final round. He distanced himself from first-round leader Mark Lye and Doug Tewell, who share second at 6 under par.
Fleisher's only bogey came on a 3-putt from 30 feet at the tricky par-4 sixth hole. He got the stroke back at the par-3 ninth and streaked to a five-birdie 31 on the back nine.
Lye shot even-par 72 at the 7,097-yard Robert Trent Jones Jr. course. Tewell posted his second straight 69. Jerry Pate fired a 67 to move into a fourth-place tie at 5 under with 2003 runner-up Larry Nelson, who finished with 69.
A one-time winner on the PGA Tour, Fleisher accumulated seven victories in 1999 as a rookie on the Champions Tour. He has won at least once a year since then.
"I came along at the perfect time," Fleisher said. "Six years ago, guys like Tom Shaw and DeWitt Weaver -- even though they were my peers -- were getting older. The timing was just perfect."
Tewell changed putters after his opening-round 69 on Friday, but his score didn't change. He borrowed a heavier model with more loft to combat slower-than-usual green speeds at Rock Barn.
"I seemed to roll the ball better, but I'm way overdue to go low," Tewell said. "I'm hoping tomorrow is that day. I'm not having a good year for me, but my goal is to really make these next four weeks a good stretch."
Defending champion Craig Stadler double-bogeyed the par-3 17th hole and slipped to 9 shots off the pace at 144 after two rounds.
Fleisher is 12-for-15 when leading entering the final round of a 54-hole event ... Tewell has posted nine straight under-par rounds in Champions Tour competition ... Sigel won the two-round Georgia Pacific Grand Champions competition for players age 60 and over with a par to Charles' bogey on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff ... Allen Doyle said he plans to give $1.1 million to his alma mater, Norwich University in Northfield, Vt. When Doyle won the Charles Schwab Cup in 2001, he donated the prize, a $1-million annuity, to charity.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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