Pooley grabs 3-shot edge
His 17-under 127 is a MasterCard 36-hole record
KA'UPULEHU, Hawaii » Don Pooley may not have been an early favorite when they teed it up Friday at the $1.7 million MasterCard Championship at Hualalai, but don't bet against him now.
Opening with a 63 on Friday, the 54-year-old followed it up with a blistering 64 yesterday to take a three-shot lead over Loren Roberts entering today's final round of the opening event on the Champions Tour. Five consecutive birdies on the back nine Friday and five in a row on the front side yesterday served Pooley well.
The 36-hole total bested by one the tournament record set by Tom Watson last year and equaled the Champions Tour mark in relation to par. Pooley shares the 17-under total with Tom Kite and Jim Ahern. Kite set the record in 2001 at the Gold Rush Classic and Ahern equaled it at the 2003 Music City Championship.
"I love that," Pooley said of tying the record. "It's been a dream to win the first tournament of the year, some year. I've played for 30 years and haven't done that. This is a great opportunity for me. If I can keep making five birdies in a row, that would be great. I always have a great attitude here and love playing here. If you win the first tournament, the pressure is off and you're playing with the house's money."
Roberts will do everything he can to keep Pooley from cashing in. He shot a second-round 67 to move to 14-under 130 for the tournament. The 50-year-old, who began his season with a tie for 18th at last week's Sony Open in Hawaii, overcame a double bogey at the fifth and a bogey at the ninth to keep Pooley honest.
Champions Tour rookie of the year Jay Haas and D.A. Weibring were tied for third at 131. Haas shot an 8-under 64 and Weibring a 7-under 65 to remain in contention at four strokes off the pace. Watson and 2004 MasterCard winner Fuzzy Zoeller were tied for fifth at 132.
Zoeller shot a solid 67, just missing a birdie at the closing hole and Watson followed up his 63 on Friday with a ho-hum 69. Like Roberts, he dumped his tee shot at the par-3 fifth in the lake, but unlike his playing partner yesterday, he wasn't able to fully recover.
"I started out pretty good," Roberts said of a tap-in birdie at the first. "But that fifth hole is one of the hard ones and I made a poor swing and hit a flare into the lake. I wasn't that upset. It was early in the round and could still make some birdies.
"I played just like I did the first day, except for the two bad swings at the fifth and one at the ninth that led to a bogey. If I make par on those two holes, I shoot exactly the same as the first round."
Well, not exactly, but you can forgive Roberts' math being one stroke off. He kept his cool after a 1-under 35 on the front, thanks to going 4 under over the closing holes. He will be paired with Pooley today, but if the trades keep to themselves, anybody can come from back in the pack and make a game of it.
Just ask Gil Morgan. He opened with a front-side 41 on Friday, only to shoot 30 on the back to keep it respectable. Morgan followed that up by tying the course record yesterday with a 9-under 63. He is 15 under over the last 27 holes, good enough for a tie for ninth at 10 under for the tournament.
"I was just trying not to be embarrassed," Morgan said. "I just went out and tried to make as many birdies as I could. It's a lot better feeling today than yesterday."
Haas had a similar experience. His first trip around the Hualalai Golf Club course left him with a 67. Just like Friday, he's still four strokes off the pace. But after a solid 64 yesterday, he believes he still has a chance to win.
"If the winds stay low, somebody could shoot a 62 out here and get right back in it," Haas said. "This golf course gives you plenty of opportunities to make birdies. The thing is, you've got to make shots because everybody out here has that ability.
"I had that hiccup at the eighth (for a bogey), but I was able to get back on track. You've got to take what the course gives you and limit your mistakes.
"Hopefully, I can keep going tomorrow and maybe get back in this thing."
Monday, January 23, 2006
» The photos from the MasterCard Championship on Page B3 yesterday and on Pages B1 and B3 on Saturday were taken by photographers from West Hawaii Today, not the Associated Press. Michael Darden took photos for Saturday's edition, and Baron Sekiya's photo appeared in yesterday's edition.