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Purtzer trying to finish strong after taking lead at BOA Championship

6/23/2007 - Golf Paul Purtzer

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.