Irwin shoots 71 to cling to Champions Classic lead

Updated: March 17, 2007, 9:38 PM ET
Associated Press

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- Hale Irwin shot a 1-under 71 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Champions Tour's AT&T Champions Classic.

Champions Classic scores
Hale Irwin
Irwin

1. Irwin (-9)
T-2. Bean (-8)
T-2. Wadkins (-8)
T-4. Simpson (-7)
T-4. Morgan (-7)
T-4. Hatalsky (-7)
T-4. Roberts (-7)
T-4. Thorpe (-7)
• Complete scores

The 61-year-old Irwin, the 1998 and 2002 tournament champion who won the season-opening MasterCard Championship for his tour-record 45th victory, had a 9-under 135 total on the Valencia Country Club course. He shot a 64 in the first round Friday.

"I played well on the front nine, but I didn't make a birdie on 9 and lost a lot of momentum," said Irwin, who parred the par-5 ninth a day after making an eagle on the hole. "It seemed after that I had a lot of 3-4-5 footers to save par."

Andy Bean (66) and Bobby Wadkins (67) were tied for second at 8 under, and three-time tournament champion Gil Morgan (68) was another stroke back along with Loren Roberts (70), Tim Simpson (66), Jim Thorpe (71) and Morris Hatalsky (69).

Bean used a new driver after giving his old one to a fan after his first round.

"I told him you have to take it or I'm going to break it," said Bean, who hit 12 fairways in the second round after hitting only four in the first. "He was happy and I was more than happy to get rid of it."

Irwin wasn't pleased with his play Saturday.

"I don't know why, but my rhythm and my timing were off," the three-time U.S. Open winner said. "I wasn't focusing real well and it cost me. I let a lot of opportunities slip through my fingers."

Bean is trying to win his second career Champions Tour title.

"Trying to make shots up on Hale is not the easiest thing," Bean said. "He is not going to make that many mistakes. I'm going to have to go out there and shoot a round just as good if I'm going to have a chance to beat him."

Irwin has won 33 of the 47 times when he has lead or shared it going into the final round on the 50-and-over tour.

"It's helpful, sure," Irwin said. "I've been on both sides of it, though, the winning and the losing. Andy and Bobby can hit the ball out of sight and I can't get caught up in that."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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