Verplank, Ames wind up tied after tough finishes

Scott Verplank, Round 1, Children's Miracle Network Classic, Walt Disney World
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
Scott Verplank, right, and Stephen Ames are tied for the lead.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Scott Verplank was two shots behind with three holes to play Saturday, then surged into a share of the lead at the Children's Miracle Network simply by making pars.

Verplank, one of six players who had at least a share of the lead on a wild afternoon at Disney, wound up with a 71 and was tied with Stephen Ames going into a final round.

On a pristine day outside the Magic Kingdom, chaos reigned on the closing holes at a tournament that used to be known for birdies falling as often as the whistle blows at Thunder Mountain.

Ames, who had a two-shot lead at one point, bogeyed two of his last three holes with three-putts that measured 60 and 70 feet. He had to settle for a 70, but had few complaints about still being in the lead.

The man of few words was Brett Wetterich, who might have joined the leaders except for his triple bogey on the final hole when he suffered a two-stroke penalty for accidentally moving a twig inside the hazard while deciding whether to play the shot. He had a 72 and walked off the course without speaking to reporters or a PGA Tour official.

Once he cools down, Wetterich might realize he's still in the hunt.

Then again, just about everyone is.

"There's got to be 30 guys that have a chance to win," Verplank said.

Verplank and Ames were at 13-under 203, with Justin Leonard (70) and long-shot Tag Ridings (71) in the five-way tie for third. Two dozen players were separated by four shots going into the final round of the final PGA Tour event of the year.

"If you play steady tomorrow, you'll have some birdie opportunities and be at the top of the board at the end of the day," Ames said.

He played better than most, riding consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes to a two-shot lead before his approach shots went to the opposite end of the green from where the flag was whipping in the wind.

That's no disgrace on the Magnolia Course, at least not anymore.

The final three holes measure 451 yards, 489 yards and 473 yards, and the soggy conditions for a week of rain made it play even longer. Leonard hit 4-iron for his second shot on all three of them, dropping one shot but still staying in the picture as he tries to win for the second time or at worst qualify for the Masters.

"It wasn't an easy day," Leonard said. "If you could shoot a couple under, you knew you weren't going to lose ground."

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