Levi pads lead with 4-under 68

Four birdies and an eagle help him get to 12-under, 2 strokes ahead at Classic

October 03, 2004|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

With 12 victories from his days on the PGA Tour, Wayne Levi will have plenty of positives to look back at today when he tries to hold off a talented and bunched-up field in a bid to win the $1.6 million Constellation Energy Classic at Hayfields Country Club in Hunt Valley.

After tying the course and tournament record with an opening-round 8-under-par 64 on Friday, Levi, 52, shot a 4-under 68 yesterday to move to 12-under for the tournament and increase his lead to two strokes going into today's final round.

Jose Maria Canizares and Graham Marsh are at 10-under and two shots back. Gil Morgan and Bob Gilder are at 9-under, while Jerry Pate and Tom Watson are among a group of four players at 8-under.

Levi, who has eight top 10 finishes on the Champions Tour this year, said he knows it won't be easy.

"You've got to have guts, get in there and gut it out," said Levi, whose only Champions Tour win came at last year's 3M Championship. "You're going to have to shoot pretty far under par because everybody is going to do the same thing. I've got to do the same things I've been doing - make sure I get the ball in the fairway, hit those irons in there to give myself a lot of opportunities and try to putt as well as I can."

The threatening skies prompted tournament officials to have two-tee starts at 8:30 a.m. in order for the second round to conclude by 3 p.m. Levi opened with two straight birdies, made another at the fifth hole and saved his day's best with an eagle on the par-5 16th that helped offset two bogeys on the back nine.

After a solid drive on the 16th, he hit an ideal 3-iron - "high with a little fade, just how you draw it up," he said - before draining a putt coming back from 14 feet. It put him at 13-under and gave him a three-shot lead, but one of his two bogeys followed to put him back at 12-under.

He said it's now all about today's final round and going in with the same mind-set he had back in his PGA Tour days.

"It's been awhile and circumstances change," he said. "You've just got to draw on the stuff you've done before and think back about what happened in some of the other tournaments you won. You try to recall some of those things and hope it helps you."

Canizares will look only as far as his 6-under 66 yesterday - tied for the best round of the day - in a bid to catch Levi.

"I played good today - hit a lot of good shots - and I'm looking forward to tomorrow," said Canizares, who has one second- and one third-place finish on the Champions Tour this season. "I'm happy to be in the position I'm in and think I'll need 64 or 65 to have a chance to win."

Pate, a Pensacola, Fla., resident who's had his hands on a chainsaw more than any golf clubs in recent weeks because of the hurricanes that have pounded his state, went from being unsure whether he would play this weekend to being right in the mix with yesterday's 66.

What better way to come back to Florida than with a first-place prize?

"It's been a pretty emotionally depressing time the last two weeks for me and I was honestly glad to get out of town and back on tour," said Pate, who missed last weekend's SAS Championship in Cary, N.C.

"With what I do for a living, I'm better off to come out, win a tournament and go home and morally and financially support the people in Pensacola. It's been tremendous loss."

In the 26 Champions Tour events so far in 2004, Saturday leaders or co-leaders have won half the titles. In last year's win at the 3M Championship, Levy sank a 4-foot birdie on the last hole to edge Morgan and Morris Hatalsky.

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