Thorpe in tight spot entering stretch

Slipping to 72 leaves him six short in race to wire

U.S. Senior Open notebook

July 02, 2000|By Sam Borden | Sam Borden,SUN STAFF

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Jim Thorpe and his brother, Chester, have spent a few of their nights in Pennsylvania at an off-track betting site in nearby Allentown.

Before yesterday's third round of the U.S. Senior Open, Chester took a few moments to bemoan how he lost money Friday night when a 75-1 long shot won a race at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

Unfortunately, after his brother's third-round, 1-over-par 72, it is Thorpe who will be the long shot in today's final round.

"I never got in the feel of the round; I felt like I was tired or something," said the former Morgan State running back, who began the day at 8 under, just one shot behind leader Bruce Fleisher.

After his 72, he was at 206, six shots behind Fleisher.

"I got up this morning around 7:15 [and] it's almost like I waited too long to go," he said. "I just never really got into sync."

Generally regarded as a solid driver, Thorpe couldn't find the range off the tee from the beginning. He saved par from the first cut of rough on No. 1, but couldn't recover from a terrible lie off the fairway on the second, making the first of three bogeys for the day.

His putter, which was his savior during Friday's 65, deserted him, as well, yesterday. He missed an 18-inch par putt on the fourth hole and a two-foot birdie try on the seventh, opportunities that he needed to cash in on a day on which scoring was the rule, rather than the exception.

"I didn't hit the ball as well as I did [Friday], didn't put myself in position," said Thorpe, who will play in the third-to-last group with Allen Doyle [8-under-par] today. "I got to go out [today] and make some birdies."

Thorpe also recognized the pressures of the moment, and admitted that perhaps the best thing he could do is change his approach to playing for the senior national championship.

"It's like the harder I tried, the worse I got," he said. "I need to play golf the way I bet on horses - just laugh and have fun."

Running out of time

Lee Trevino, who stands at 3-over after three rounds at Saucon Valley Country Club, has improved by two shots each day. After an opening-round 74, the 60-year-old "merry Mexican" shot a 1-over 72 Friday and a 70 yesterday.

While he's happy to be getting better, Trevino realizes that with the way scores are going in the tame conditions, he's going to need a lot more than just one more round to catch up.

"Well, if we can stay out here about a month, then I might be able to win," he said.

Weak over 72 holes

Historically, Fleisher has done well when he's held the lead going into the final round of a tournament. On the 10 occasions he's led, he's won the event nine times.

However, all non-major events on the Senior Tour are only three rounds, while the majors (such as this week), are four. In those 72-hole tournaments, Fleisher's record with the third-round lead is less encouraging: 0-2.

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