Sunday, June 09, 2002

Daniel on verge of major victory

Wadkins (Bobby) leads Senior PGA

The Associated Press

        WILMINGTON, Del. — The LPGA Championship has produced career Grand Slams twice in the last three years, so DuPont Country Club is no stranger to history.

        With Beth Daniel in control, this could be one for the ages.

        Daniel, 45, who is seven years removed from her last victory, seized control Saturday with 3-under-par 68 that expanded her lead to four strokes and moved her one round closer to becoming the oldest woman to win a major.

        Babe Zaharias was 42 years, 11 months when she won the 1954 U.S. Women's Open.

        Daniel gave herself the chance with a great round — six birdies on a course where the premium is on par, the last one a 25-foot putt on the 18th hole that found the center of the cup and left Daniel smiling like a teen-ager.

        “I'm making a lot of birdies, and that makes up for a lot of mistakes,” said Daniel, who was at 8-under 205.

        Se Ri Pak, 24, who won the LPGA Championship for her first career victory in 1998, did well to keep within four strokes of a woman nearly twice her age. The Korean had only one bogey in a round of 68, sticking to her plan of hitting fairways and greens.

        Not much went right for Karrie Webb, who won the LPGA Championship last year to complete the career Grand Slam. She fought her swing most of the day, got nasty lies in the rough and couldn't get enough putts to fall.

        Webb managed to scrape out a 72 and was at 211 along with Kim Saiki (69). They were the only players who remained under par going into the final round.

        BUICK CLASSIC: Chris Smith crashed David Gossett and Loren Roberts' Tennessee reunion Saturday, shooting a 4-under 67 to take the third-round lead at Harrison, N.Y.

        Smith, a five-time winner on the Tour, was a stroke ahead of the neighbors from Germantown, Tenn., at 11-under 202 on the Westchester Country Club's West Course.

        SENIOR PGA: Bobby Wadkins had the lead after three rounds of the Senior PGA Championship, yet he was still worried about what could happen if Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, were to get harder, drier and faster.

        “You're never home free here,” Wadkins said after shooting a 69 — one of only five subpar rounds Saturday — to lead the second senior major championship by one shot after 54 holes. “You won't be free here tomorrow until you walk off the last green and you have the lowest score.”

        Wadkins is the only player in the field with a red number next to his name. He stands at 1-under 209, one shot ahead of Fuzzy Zoeller, Larry Nelson and Roy Vucinich.

        Being on top doesn't give much comfort, particularly with 18 players within four strokes of the lead.

        “I can go out there tomorrow and play halfway decent and shoot 72,” Wadkins said. “Somebody is four back and they go out and shoot 3- or 4-under and then we have a ballgame.”

        It was the first time since the tournament went to a 72-hole format in 1958 that only one player was under par through three rounds.

        The field played to an average score of 73.5 on the par-70 layout and had twice as many bogeys (346) as birdies (172).

        • Citing lingering back pain while working out on the practice range, Jack Nicklaus withdrew.


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