TIMONIUM, Md.(AP) Nick Price is poised to end his drought on the Champions Tour in major fashion.
Winless in 30 tries on the 50-and-over circuit, Price shot a bogey-free 66 Saturday to take a one-shot lead over D.A. Weibring after three rounds of the Senior Players Championship.
Starting the day in a fifth-place tie, Price moved up the leaderboard with birdies on three of the first five holes. He then peeled off 11 straight pars before sinking a 13-foot birdie putt on 17.
“That was really a big birdie for me,” he said.
The 51-year-old Price barely missed a 23-foot birdie putt on 18, then tapped in to close at 8-under 202.
Price earned more than $20 million on the PGA Tour and won two Player of the Year awards, but he has yet to cash a winner’s check on the Champion’s Tour. That could change Sunday in the final major of the year.
“Not playing as much as I would like to play, or need to play, I just haven’t had the consistency in my game,” he said. “But it certainly has felt a lot better this week.
“I’m just going to go out (Sunday) and just try and put one foot in front of the next, try not to get too far ahead of myself and play each shot as it comes. That’s what I always did when I was playing well. Maybe it will work.”
Eight players will enter the final round within four shots of the lead.
Weibring made five birdies in shooting a 66. Jeff Sluman (64) and Gene Jones (69) were at 6 under; Eduardo Romero (67) was alone at 5 under; and Jay Haas (69) and Fred Funk (72) were among four players at 4 under.
Sluman had the best round of the week. He eagled the 362-yard, par-4 sixth hole, made four birdies, hit 13 of 14 fairways and didn’t have a bogey.
The final threesome will be Price, Weibring and Sluman. Given the circumstances, Weibring expects Price to be at his best.
“Nick’s a Hall of Fame player,” Weibring said. “One of the more surprising things is that he hasn’t won. He’s a great player; I love to play with him, I love to watch him play. I do think he’s hungry. A major championship gets his juices going. He’ll be very, very tough.”
Despite his fine play this week, Price will be taking nothing for granted.
“This is such a fickle game. You just never know what’s coming around the corner,” he said.
Jones started the back nine with two straight birdies to move into first place, but he fell into a second-place tie by three-putting on No. 12 for a bogey. He fell farther back when he missed a twisting par putt on 13, and he also bogeyed 18.
Funk, the hometown favorite, led for much of the round before stumbling under the weight of three successive bogeys on Nos. 13-15.
Second-round leader Ben Crenshaw bogeyed two of the first three holes and finished with a 74 to fall well off the pace at 3 under. Crenshaw made only one birdie in his bid to earn his first tournament title since capturing the Masters for a second time in 1995.
He struggled from the outset, hitting his first shot to the left of the fairway. His approach then rolled off the green, and he had to settle for a bogey.
After getting a par on the 157-yard second hole, Crenshaw again missed the fairway to the left and ended up with a bogey. That gave him two bogeys on three holes – double the number he had in the entire second round, when he missed the fairway only twice.
Funk was born in Maryland, earned his degree at the University of Maryland and served as the school’s golf coach from 1982-88. With a huge gallery cheering him on, he moved into a tie with Crenshaw with a par on the 427-yard first hole and was alone in first place after parring No. 3 – a hole that Crenshaw and Jones both bogeyed.
But after going 12 holes without a bogey, Funk played the final six holes at 4 over.