<
>

Brisk winds don't stop Morgan from keeping Turtle Bay lead

1/26/2008 - Golf Gil Morgan

KAHUKU, Hawaii -- Gil Morgan failed to break par but was
satisfied with his round, considering the conditions.

Morgan held steady in the whipping wind, shooting an even-par 72
on Saturday to maintain a two-stroke lead after the second round of
the Turtle Bay Championship.

"It was pretty wicked out there," Morgan said.

The 61-year-old Morgan had a birdie and bogey on the each side
of the wind-swept Palmer Course for a 36-hole total of 7-under 137
in the Champions Tour's first-field event of the year.

Jim Thorpe (71), seeking his second win in three starts, and
rookie Bernhard Langer (71) were 5 under.

Defending champion Fred Funk, coming off a win last week in the
winners-only MasterCard Championship, shot his second straight 70
to match Morris Hatalsky (73) and rookies Phil Blackmar (72) and
Fulton Allem (72) at 4 under.

The surf was up on Oahu's North Shore. So were the breezes and
scores.

"The hardest element to throw at a golfer is wind," Funk said.
"Wind is the biggest thing that creates the biggest problems
because it makes us guess. It makes us think. You've got to
create."

The wind was so strong, Funk's drive on No. 3 was about 70 yards
shorter than last year, when he ran away with an 11-stroke victory.

There were 16 players in the 60s on a calm Friday. Don Pooley
(69) was the only one on Saturday.

The players did everything they could to neutralize the
pin-bending, cap-grabbing 30 mph gusts that tested them from tee to
green. They tried using wider stances, playing more conservatively
and hitting lower trajectories.

"It could be one of the hardest rounds of golf since I've been
on the Champions Tour," Thorpe said. "It was a guessing game. It
was absolutely a guess game. ... Basically, what we tried to do out
there was hold on to what you've got. Making birdies was almost out
of the question."

Thorpe said when the biggest problem was keeping the putter
steady. If the wind continues Sunday, he believes the "winning
score might be posted already."

Morgan is hoping for a strong start Sunday.

"If I play poorly, it gives everybody an opportunity," he
said. "If I put a good number out there, it would be beneficial
for me."

Morgan has won 16 of 31 events when leading or tied for the lead
heading into Sunday. He was in a three-way tie after 36 holes at
2007 Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, where he went on to
beat Hale Irwin by two strokes.

Morgan wants to avoid a final round collapse like last week at
Hualalai, where he had a bogey, double bogey and triple bogey and
finished in a 37th-place tie in the 41-player field.

Morgan, seeking his 26th Champions Tour victory, began the day
with a two-stroke lead over Hatalsky.

Thorpe birdied three of four holes before the turn to pull
within a stroke of Morgan, who had two eagles in a four-hole
stretch in the opening round.

Morgan then missed a 12-foot par putt on No. 10, dropping him in
a tie with Thorpe at 6 under. But the optometrist quickly regained
the outright lead by sinking a 4-footer for birdie on the par-5
12th.

Thorpe fell two strokes back when he sailed his tee shot into
the bunker and bogeyed the par-3 13th. He nearly lost another
stroke on the par-4 16th after driving 366 yards over the ironwood
trees and into the lake. The shot left him shaking his head, but he
managed to save par and stay at 5 under.

"When the wind is gusting like today, anything around par was
very, very solid," Thorpe said. "Anything under par was an
excellent round."

Thorpe dropped into the crowd at 4 under when he three-putted
No. 17, but countered with a 5-foot birdie putt on 18.

Langer, a two-time Masters champion, had an up-and-down round
with four birdies and three bogeys. He's seeking his second
Champions Tour victory in six career starts.

Last year, Funk had the most-lopsided victory ever in a 54-hole
Champions Tour event, finishing with consecutive 8-under 64s for an
11-stroke, wire-to-wire win. He had a tournament-record 23-under
193 total.

"I think anybody who gets to double digits will win this
thing," Funk said. "I think 10 under is looking awfully good."

Funk is seeking his second straight Hawaiian trophy after his
two-stroke victory over Allen Doyle at Hualalai. The victory came
after he opened the year by tying for 25th in the PGA Tour's
Mercedes-Benz Championship and tying for 10th in the Sony Open.

The 51-year-old Funk parred 10 straight holes before finishing
with a pair of birdies.

Tom Kite (73), Jerry Pate (70), Scott Simpson (72) were 3 under.
They were followed by Doyle (70), who finished second to Funk last
week, Robert Thompson (71) and Lonnie Nielsen (72) and Donnie
Hammond (74).

Irwin, the six-time Turtle Bay champion, shot his second
straight 72 and was tied for 23rd at even par.