Morgan tames wind to maintain lead in Turtle Bay Championship

Morgan tames wind to maintain lead in Turtle Bay Championship

KAHUKU, Hawaii (AP) — Gil Morgan failed to break par but was satisfied with his round, considering the conditions.

Morgan held steady in the whipping wind, shooting an even-par 72 on Saturday to maintain a two-stroke lead after the second round of the Turtle Bay Championship.

“It was pretty wicked out there,” Morgan said.

The 61-year-old Morgan had a birdie and bogey on the each side of the wind-swept Palmer Course for a 36-hole total of 7-under 137 in the Champions Tour’s first-field event of the year.

Jim Thorpe (71), seeking his second win in three starts, and rookie Bernhard Langer (71) were 5 under.

Defending champion Fred Funk, coming off a win last week in the winners-only MasterCard Championship, shot his second straight 70 to match Morris Hatalsky (73) and rookies Phil Blackmar (72) and Fulton Allem (72) at 4 under.

The surf was up on Oahu’s North Shore. So were the breezes and scores.

“The hardest element to throw at a golfer is wind,” Funk said. “Wind is the biggest thing that creates the biggest problems because it makes us guess. It makes us think. You’ve got to create.”

The wind was so strong, Funk’s drive on No. 3 was about 70 yards shorter than last year, when he ran away with an 11-stroke victory.

There were 16 players in the 60s on a calm Friday. Don Pooley (69) was the only one on Saturday.

The players did everything they could to neutralize the pin-bending, cap-grabbing 30 mph gusts that tested them from tee to green. They tried using wider stances, playing more conservatively and hitting lower trajectories.

“It could be one of the hardest rounds of golf since I’ve been on the Champions Tour,” Thorpe said. “It was a guessing game. It was absolutely a guess game. … Basically, what we tried to do out there was hold on to what you’ve got. Making birdies was almost out of the question.”

Thorpe said when the biggest problem was keeping the putter steady. If the wind continues Sunday, he believes the “winning score might be posted already.”

Morgan is hoping for a strong start Sunday.

“If I play poorly, it gives everybody an opportunity,” he said. “If I put a good number out there, it would be beneficial for me.”

Morgan has won 16 of 31 events when leading or tied for the lead heading into Sunday. He was in a three-way tie after 36 holes at 2007 Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, where he went on to beat Hale Irwin by two strokes.

Morgan wants to avoid a final round collapse like last week at Hualalai, where he had a bogey, double bogey and triple bogey and finished in a 37th-place tie in the 41-player field.

Morgan, seeking his 26th Champions Tour victory, began the day with a two-stroke lead over Hatalsky.

Thorpe birdied three of four holes before the turn to pull within a stroke of Morgan, who had two eagles in a four-hole stretch in the opening round.

Morgan then missed a 12-foot par putt on No. 10, dropping him in a tie with Thorpe at 6 under. But the optometrist quickly regained the outright lead by sinking a 4-footer for birdie on the par-5 12th.

Thorpe fell two strokes back when he sailed his tee shot into the bunker and bogeyed the par-3 13th. He nearly lost another stroke on the par-4 16th after driving 366 yards over the ironwood trees and into the lake. The shot left him shaking his head, but he managed to save par and stay at 5 under.

“When the wind is gusting like today, anything around par was very, very solid,” Thorpe said. “Anything under par was an excellent round.”

Thorpe dropped into the crowd at 4 under when he three-putted No. 17, but countered with a 5-foot birdie putt on 18.

Langer, a two-time Masters champion, had an up-and-down round with four birdies and three bogeys. He’s seeking his second Champions Tour victory in six career starts.

Last year, Funk had the most-lopsided victory ever in a 54-hole Champions Tour event, finishing with consecutive 8-under 64s for an 11-stroke, wire-to-wire win. He had a tournament-record 23-under 193 total.

“I think anybody who gets to double digits will win this thing,” Funk said. “I think 10 under is looking awfully good.”

Funk is seeking his second straight Hawaiian trophy after his two-stroke victory over Allen Doyle at Hualalai. The victory came after he opened the year by tying for 25th in the PGA Tour’s Mercedes-Benz Championship and tying for 10th in the Sony Open.

The 51-year-old Funk parred 10 straight holes before finishing with a pair of birdies.

Tom Kite (73), Jerry Pate (70), Scott Simpson (72) were 3 under. They were followed by Doyle (70), who finished second to Funk last week, Robert Thompson (71) and Lonnie Nielsen (72) and Donnie Hammond (74).

Irwin, the six-time Turtle Bay champion, shot his second straight 72 and was tied for 23rd at even par.

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