BLAINE, Minn. (AP) — Nick Price went for it. One of his playing partners did not – this time.
Price birdied the final hole Saturday for a 4-under 68 and a one-shot lead over Gene Jones and Andy Bean after the second round of the Champions Tour’s 3M Championship.
Tied on the 582-yard par-5, Price and Bean went for the green, one of the shallowest on the course, over a small lake. Using his utility club, Price’s high, arcing shot landed about 45 feet from the hole; Bean’s shot landed in a greenside bunker and Jones laid up.
“I believe he did the right thing, but if he’s one shot back tomorrow he’ll go for it,” Price said of Jones.
Price, who won the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in April and lost in a playoff at The Principal Charity Classic in late-May, barely missed his eagle try before tapping in and moving to 11-under 133; Bean and Jones settled for pars.
The trio will again play together in Sunday’s final round.
“I couldn’t get rid of any of them and they couldn’t get rid of me,” joked Bean, who was tied with Price for the lead after one round.
Like Friday, Price didn’t get rolling until the back nine. He is just 2 under on the front side in the opening two rounds but 9 under on the final nine holes, including a knee-bending 15-foot putt for birdie on No. 16.
“I’ll need to score a little better on the front nine tomorrow,” he said. “It’s going to be a shootout for sure.”
Starting at 7 under, Bean scrambled on many holes, but birdied No. 17 to get to 10 under for the second time.
“I got lucky today,” he said. “I played a so-so round and I’m only a shot back.”
That was in part due to conditions at the TPC Twin Cities, where the greens got firmer and faster throughout the sunny, breezy day. There were 32 sub-par rounds Saturday, compared to 45 in Friday’s first round.
“There was a little bit of caution out there from most of us,” Price said. “The course is not letting anyone get away from the field.”
Jones, who has yet to win in two years on the tour, was never in trouble as he played a bogey-free round to put him in contention for the second straight year. He was second on the back nine last year before a bogey, double-bogey, par finish dropped him to fourth.
“I like where I’m at. I like the swing, I like my attitude, I’m putting well. I think it’s just a matter of time,” he said. “It would mean everything to me.”
Bernhard Langer (68) is two shots back, and Scott Hoch (69) and Tom Kite (67) trail by three strokes.
Three straight birdies got Langer, who has three tour wins this year, to 11 under before back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16.
“I was going well and had some momentum,” he said. “I was hoping to get one or two more birdies coming home.”
After an opening-round 73, Steve Thomas shot the day’s low round, an 8-under 64 that tied his career best and moved him within four shots.
One of the tour’s longest and most confident hitters off the tee, Thomas said he could put the ball in a glass of water 300 yards away, but hasn’t been able to find a rhythm on the greens.
He needed just 24 putts to score in the 60s for the first time in 13 rounds.
“I got a little more determined with my putter today. I got the ball to roll where I wanted it to roll,” he said.
Thomas’s best finish in 11 season events was 31st at the Allianz Championship in February. He has finished 44th or worse nine times.
“I owe a lot of thanks to Andy Bean,” he said. “We play a lot of golf together, and he just said I need to stick with it and trust my game.”