For Price, top spot isn't top priority

senior players championship

Leading by one stroke, he takes it easier on Champions Tour

October 12, 2008|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

When he joined the Champions Tour in 2007, almost everyone thought Nick Price was going to dominate. A three-time major winner and two-time Player of the Year on the PGA Tour, he was still one of the best ball-strikers alive. He looked like a lock to win a bunch of tournaments.

Price, though, never saw it that way. His son, Gregory, and his two daughters, Robyn and Kimberly, were entering their teenage years, and he wanted to be a part of their daily lives. He didn't want to travel 30-plus weeks out of the year and hit golf balls for hours until his hands hurt.

"It hasn't been a priority of mine to win out here," said Price, 51, who for years was known as one of the hardest workers on the PGA Tour. "For me, it's been a priority to come out here and enjoy myself. I was a slave to this game for 22 years on the regular tour. It dictated my life. Now, I don't think the Champions Tour is about that. It's about coming out here and enjoying yourself, and if you win, that's a byproduct."

Price acknowledges, however, that he is working a bit harder the past three weeks - harder than he had worked in nearly two years. He can't explain the increased desire, but the results might be coming. After shooting 66 yesterday to go to 8-under par for the tournament, he holds a one-shot lead going into today's final round of the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship at Baltimore Country Club.

D.A. Weibring also shot 66 and is alone in second place at 7-under. Jeff Sluman started the day at even par but posted the best round of the tournament with a 64 and is tied with Gene Jones at 6-under.

Takoma Park native Fred Funk had an early lead - and made a nifty par save on the eighth hole after he took off his right shoe and sock and chipped the ball close with one foot in the water - but he struggled with his putter much of the afternoon and tumbled down the leader board. He is in a four-way tie for sixth after a 2-over 72.

Price, who switched to a mallet putter during the past week, was never in much danger during the third round, hitting 12 fairways and 15 greens in regulation. He hasn't made a bogey in 36 holes.

"I think it's probably one of the more surprising things that Nick hasn't won [on the Champions Tour]," said Weibring, who was paired with Price during the third round. "He's such a great player. I love to play with him and watch him play. I think he's hungry. A major championship gets his juices going."

If Price is pumped up, he didn't let on, either in his round or his news conference. The calm and polite native of South Africa seemed to imply that he'll be content with whatever happens in today's final round. He has had the 54-hole tournament lead 17 times in his career and won nine of them.

"I love it out here because it's much lower-key. There's less fanfare, and you have more time to yourself," Price said.

"This is a period in my life where I'm almost doing what I want to do. I couldn't have it any better. It's fun again."

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