TURTLE BAY CHAMPIONSHIP
Gil Morgan kept a tight grip on his hat while battling 25 mph gusts during second-round play at the Turtle Bay Championship. Morgan overcame the obstacle and held onto his two-stroke lead.
Morgan maintains 2-shot lead
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As easy as the golf course played last year when Fred Funk won the Turtle Bay Championship with a 23-under 193, it's playing that much more difficult this time around.
Gil Morgan held steady and true with an even-par 72 yesterday in blustery conditions to finish at 7-under 137 after 36 holes to hold a two-shot advantage over Jim Thorpe (71) and Bernhard Langer (71), and three shots clear of Funk (70), Phil Blackmar (72), Morris Hatalsky (73) and Fulton Allem (72).
The wind blew hard from the outset, with gusts topping 25 mph with more of the same expected today. Thorpe boldly predicted that the winning score had already been posted, but later said he needed to shoot 4 or 5 under today to overtake Morgan for his 14th Champions Tour win.
The overall scoring average on Friday was 72.192, but that ballooned to 74.416. Don Pooley had the only round in the 60s and he needed a birdie at the last to shoot his 3-under 69. There were only 11 rounds under par after 33 landed in the red on Friday.
Local golfer David Ishii did a much better job yesterday, shooting a 1-over 73 after opening with a 78 on Friday. He bogeyed his third hole, then parred the next 15. Fellow Hawaii Golf Hall of Famer Dick McClean had a 73 on Friday and came back with a 76 yesterday.
Hawaii resident Dave Eichelberger went in the opposite direction of Ishii. After shooting a 70 on Friday, he fired a six-over 78 yesterday. The final round begins at 7:50 a.m. today with all the golfers starting at the first tee.
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The tradewinds gave the old guys a refresher course on just how difficult the $1.6 million Turtle Bay Championship can be.
After surrendering some ridiculously low scores the last few years -- including defending champion Fred Funk's 23-under 193 -- the blustery breezes sent everyone scrambling for shelter during yesterday's second tour of duty of the Palmer Course.
There were 16 rounds in the 60s in the opening 18 holes, but only one yesterday by Don Pooley (69) as the average score jumped 2.2 shots in the first full-field event on the Champions Tour.
First-day leader Gil Morgan's even-par 72 was more typical as the wind blew a steady 15-25 mph from the first tee to the final putt. Despite a seven-shot swing from the opening round to yesterday, Morgan still held onto his two-stroke advantage with at 7-under 137, the highest two-day total since Tom Kite led after 36 holes at 6-under 138 in 2003.
Jim Thorpe, who is two shots behind leader Gil Morgan at 139, watched his drive on the eighth tee yesterday.
Morgan enters today's final 18 holes two shots clear of Jim Thorpe (71) and Bernhard Langer (71), who both closed with birdies at the 18th for a two-day total of 139. There are four golfers tied for third at 4-under 140, including Funk (70). His birdie-birdie finish allowed last week's MasterCard winner to be one of only 11 golfers to shoot under par after 33 turned that trick on Friday.
Tour rookies Fulton Allem (72) and Phil Blackmar (72), and Morris Hatalsky (73) joined Funk in a tie for fourth. Scott Simpson (72), Tom Kite (73) and Jerry Pate (70) round out the top 10 at 3-under 141. There are 14 players within five shots of the lead, meaning it's a wide-open tournament entering today's final round.
"It was pretty wicked out there with the wind and everything," Morgan said. "In a way, it was kind of a tough day to play, you had to really stay on top of it all the time to make it work. And even that, it didn't work 100 percent of the time.
"Distances were a big factor. A lot of shots you were playing two to three clubs both ways, a lot of times. So it made it a little bit tough to figure out exactly what was the right shot. I had a lot of shots seemed like they finished a long ways away from the pin. It didn't go far enough or it went too far. But all in all it was good. Everybody had to play in the same stuff."
Gil Morgan waved to the crowd after making par on No. 8 in the second round of the Turtle Bay Championship.
Still, it's not often a 72 allows the leader to keep a two-shot advantage from one day to the next. Normally, a Saturday would be considered moving day, but on an afternoon where fighting for survival ruled, there wasn't a lot of movement at the top. Of the 16 golfers who landed in the 60s on Friday, only six shot even par or better yesterday.
Two of them had huge swings for the worse. Bobby Wadkins and Mike Reid shot 69 on Friday and came back to fire a 79 and 80, respectively, yesterday, something not lost on the leaders. They were just glad to shoot around even par to stay in contention.
"If somebody goes out and shoots a 4- or 5-under par round tomorrow, I think they win it," Thorpe said. "We all know Gil is a very, very solid player who's not going to back up too much. You've got to apply a little pressure and play."
Thorpe entered last week's final round at the MasterCard in third, just two shots off the pace of Allen Doyle. Funk was alone in second, only one stroke removed and likes his chances today, especially after his strong finish.
"Today was really tough," Funk said. "But obviously with the birdie-birdie finish it leaves you with a good taste in your mouth. I said this earlier in the week and now I think it's definitely true, I thought it would be the biggest difference from the winning score between two years, maybe ever.
"And if it's blowing tomorrow even harder, anything under par is a heck of a round. I think single digits might win this thing. I think anybody who gets to double digits is probably going to win this thing."