Irwin shoots 71 to cling to Champions Classic lead

3/17/2007 - Golf Hale Irwin

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.

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."