Sunday, August 05, 2007

BLAINE, Minn. (AP) — A simple birdie lifted D.A. Weibring into the lead after two rounds of the Champions Tour's 3M Championship.

Weibring shot a 6-under 66 Saturday in a round that included four birdies on the last six holes. His two-round score of 13-under, 131 tied a 36-hole tournament record. Jim Thorpe, a co-leader after the first round, fired a 4-under 68 and was one shot back heading into Sunday's final round.

Tom Watson, whose 65 was the best round of the Saturday, led a quartet of players three strokes off the leader's pace. He was joined by Curtis Strange, who birdied the final four holes, Tom Jenkins, a co-leader after the first round, and local favorite John Harris.

Craig Stadler, who shot a 70, was 11 under after 12 holes, but finished at 9 under. He was tied with Bruce Lietzke (68) and John Jacobs (70). Stadler has finished second in the tournament three straight years.

An intermittent light rain kept the greens soft, but the wind picked up at the TPC Twin Cities. Just 14 players broke 70 Saturday, compared to 41 under calm, sunny conditions Friday.

"Yesterday, the course was defenseless, and today the teeth came out," said Harris of Edina, Minn., who eagled the par-5 final hole for a 69.

The 387-yard, par-4 16th hole, with bunkers on the left side and water down the right, forced a number of players to debate between a driver and 3-wood off the tee to set up an easier approach to the narrow, elevated green.

"For a medium to short par four, it's a tough hole," said Weibring, who hit a driver and 9-iron before sinking a 20-foot birdie putt. "I've had problems with that hole in the past. Normally when I'm in-between I'll go to a lesser club off the tee and try to be more aggressive. But my caddie didn't think I could get to the bunker, so I just wanted to make a good, solid swing."

Thorpe hit his drive into the water, his third shot into a bunker and two-putted for a double-bogey. Harris also found water off the tee and was 2 over on the hole. Stadler 3-putted from less than 10 feet for his double-bogey.

"The wind picked up," Thorpe said. "I was just trying to hit a soft drive up there to keep it short of the bunkers. I kind of nicked it a bit, but still I thought it was in the fairway and not in the water. The bogey putt from about 20 feet kind of went down and came out. ... It's a short hole, but I think it's the toughest hole on the course."

Watson, who finished 10th during his only other appearance at the tournament in 2001, began his day with birdies on the first three holes and ended it by going 3 under on the last two. He also struggled at No. 16 before saving par.

Watson, who won the Senior British Open last weekend, put his approach shot in the bunker but made the sand save with a 15-foot putt.

"Other than the shot at 16 it was probably the best round I've played all year," he said.

His tee shot on 17 stopped 3 feet from the hole, and he sank a 19-foot putt for eagle on the final hole.

"I finished yesterday on a bad note with a bogey at 18," he said. "After making that putt for par I just said, 'Heck, let's just see if we can finish a lot stronger than we did yesterday.' ... This puts me in a good frame of mind for (Sunday)."

The last four 3M Championship winners scored in the 60s during each round. With the weather predicted to turn more favorable Sunday, Thorpe, knows a low score will be needed again.

"I said yesterday that 16, 17 under would be the winning score," Thorpe said. "I look to be right on."

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