Martin charges in Kemper

He's 4 back after 67

Lowery still in front

June 04, 2000|By Sam Borden | Sam Borden,SUN STAFF

POTOMAC - Casey Martin weaved in and out of a gridlocked group of leaders yesterday at the Kemper Insurance Open, maneuvering through the third round with a 4-under-par 67.

Martin, who uses a cart because of a painful leg condition, enters the fourth round at 6-under 206, four shots off the steady pace of Steve Lowery, who has led after all three rounds.

There are 17 players within five shots of the lead, including Franklin Langham and Paul Stankowski at 203, Justin Leonard and Tom Scherrer at 204, and Tim Herron and Stewart Cink at 206.

Martin began his third round just 16 hours after he finished his rain-delayed second one. The former teammate of Tiger Woods couldn't sleep off all of the disappointment of a back-nine 40 Friday night, though, and came out slowly, double-bogeying the par-4 fourth hole. But birdies on Nos. 10, 12, 13 and 15 gave him a nine-stroke improvement from the day before with a 4-under 31.

"It started out kind of shaky for me," said Martin, who labored noticeably in Friday's heat at TPC at Avenel but seemed more comfortable in yesterday's less humid weather. "After the double at four, I was kind of bummed out, I must admit. But golf's a funny game. I've just got to keep improving - keep the good, shuck the bad."

Langham made the most visible charge of the day with a 66. Langham, whose best finish on the PGA Tour is a second at the Doral-Ryder Open in February, made six birdies by firing laserlike irons at the flag. He only hit 12 greens, but of his birdies, only one required a putt of longer than 18 feet.

The last time Langham was this close to the top was at Doral, where he couldn't stand up to a back-nine 30 from Jim Furyk, losing a six-shot lead over the final seven holes.

"It was like a train wreck," said Langham, who has spent much of his career on the minor-league Buy.com Tour and is in his fourth year on the PGA Tour.

"I thought back on it a number of times and my mind was in the right place every shot I hit. I never was scared. And if I get 6 up tomorrow I'm going to try and make it 10 because you're never done until you're in the clubhouse."

Lowery and Leonard made up the final pairing of the day, but for the most part watched each other go in circles. Lowery made two birdies, one bogey and 15 pars on his way to a sleepy 70, and Leonard fought lip-outs and soft grass (he chunked his fairway wedge on No. 13 about 10 feet) to stay at 9-under after a 71.

Indeed, the most action involving the group might have been when two deer ran across the 11th green as the players were walking up to the putting surface. On a day in which he took 31 putts, Leonard then promptly made a 40-footer.

"All these good putts I felt like I hit and then on 11 I've got this 40-footer with three different breaks and that's the one I make," Leonard said. "It just proves that this is a silly game we're playing. Sometimes you just have to laugh about it."

The round of the day belonged to 1998 Kemper champion Stuart Appleby, who blistered the course early in the day with a 64. Appleby punctuated his victory two years ago with a course-record 63 in the second round, and he was inches away from matching that mark yesterday.

After barely making the cut at 1-over par, Appleby came out with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 and then swooped in a 30-foot eagle putt on the sixth.

"It's like giving [the rest of the field] a lap start," Appleby said of his 70-73 performance on Thursday and Friday.

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