Purtzer trying to finish strong after taking lead at BOA Championship

Updated: June 23, 2007, 7:14 PM ET
Associated Press

CONCORD, Mass. -- Leading the Bank of America Championship heading into the final round is nothing new for Tom Purtzer. Winning it would be.

Bank of America Championship scores

1. Purtzer (-10)
T-2. Watson (-7)
T-2. Haas (-7)
T-2. Jenkins (-7)
T-2. Fergus (-7)
T-2. Eaks (-7)
T-2. Hanefeld (-7)
T-2. Ferenz (-7)

• Complete scores

Three birdies on his last six holes Saturday gave Purtzer a three-stroke edge over seven golfers, including first-day leader Tom Watson. But he can't forget his disappointing trend in the event on a short course where one hot golfer can take control.

Purtzer led after the second round in the last two senior tournaments at Nashawtuc Country Club but couldn't hang on. On Saturday, his late rally gave him a 68 for a 10-under 134.

Winning Sunday "would mean a lot," he said. "I'm not kidding myself that I don't remember what happened."

Now, though, he considers himself a better player, especially after a switch in his grip improved his game by "80 percent" last March. He simply began holding the club tightly throughout his backswing, rather than loosening his hands after starting it and then re-gripping.

"All those books that you read say hold onto the club," Purtzer said. "It's just a matter of doing it and then trusting it."

In 2004, Purtzer shot a final-round 72 at Nashawtuc and finished tied for second, four strokes behind Craig Stadler, who shot a 64 for the biggest comeback victory since the tournament began in 1981.

In 2005, he lost to Mark McNulty on the second playoff hole. The tournament was canceled last year without anyone teeing off because of heavy rain and a saturated course.

On Saturday, playing with Watson, he felt fans who knew of those close calls were behind him.

"Absolutely," Purtzer said. "I can't believe how every green I was going to, every tee box I was going to, they were going `go, get 'em, Tom.' Oh, wait a minute, maybe that was Watson."

Watson led Purtzer by one shot after shooting a 7-under 65 on Friday, when there were two rain delays. On Saturday, in sunny and windy conditions, he sank to 72.

"In boxing terms, I didn't lay a glove on it today," he said. "I'd feel good about my chances if I played better today."

R.W. Eaks had an even bigger swing between the two rounds -- in the opposite direction. He shot a 64 after opening with a 73. In one stretch of nine holes he gained nine strokes on par with consecutive eagles and five birdies. That stretch put him at 9 under for the day after his 13th hole, tied for the lead at the time with Purtzer.

Not bad for a guy who went to the University of Northern Colorado on a basketball scholarship and is still the 12th leading scorer in school history.

"We kind of had what you would call a golf club maybe," said Eaks, ninth in this year's points standings just one spot behind Purtzer. "I think we drank more beer than we played golf, but I went there to play basketball."

He's always had a knack in both sports for putting the ball in the hole.

"I was the black hole" in basketball, he said. "If they threw it to me, they weren't getting it back."

Purtzer started and finished strongly on Saturday but struggled in between.

Admittedly a mediocre putter, Purtzer rolled the ball in from 6 feet on the 13th hole, 7½ feet on the 15th and 9 feet on the 18th.

"That's a nice way to finish," he said. "On about 11, I said to myself, `let's see if we can get to double figures.' I was trying to get to 10 under."

He made it. Now he hopes, finally, to make it through 18 more holes with seven players lurking just three strokes back.

"It would definitely make a good story," Purtzer said, a smile crossing his face, "especially for me."

Divots
In the other 25 senior tournaments at Nashawtuc, the second-round leader or co-leader won 14 times, the last time in 2003 when Allen Doyle held on. ... Massy Kuramoto got a hole-in-one on the 167-yard 17th hole, the fifth ace in tournament history.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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