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Overton in a must-win situation

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2002

Jay Overton got a second chance Saturday at the Royal Caribbean Classic, and he took advantage, shooting 7-under-par 65 at Crandon Park Golf Club to lead the Senior PGA Tour event.

Overton, 51, the former director of golf at Innisbrook who lives in Palm Harbor, was 3 over on the 18th hole in Friday's opening round when the tournament was delayed by bad weather. The round eventually was canceled, and because less than half the field had completed play all the scores were wiped out and the tournament was reduced to 36 holes.

"Today was just a freebie," Overton said of his seven-birdie, no-bogey round. "I didn't think I could play as bad as I did (Friday). I didn't hit the ball solid, and I didn't make any putts. I made nothing. I didn't putt that well (Saturday), but I cleaned up a bunch of 5-footers. That was the difference."

Overton had a one-stroke advantage over Bruce Fleisher, Bob Gilder, John Bland, Dick Mast and Dana Quigley. Tom Kite, who won the Mastercard Championship in Hawaii two weeks ago, is among six who are two shots back at 67, including John Jacobs and Tom Purtzer. There are 19 within three shots of the lead.

A victory would give Overton a one-year exemption on the tour, not to mention $217,500 from the $1.45-million purse.

But a high finish without a win does Overton little good. Because he failed to earn playing privileges at the Senior PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament in the fall, Overton has no exempt status. He made it into this tournament Monday by shooting 66 in a four-spot qualifier. He's scheduled to do the same thing Monday for next week's event in Naples.

"It doesn't matter if I shoot 80 or 70 or 60," he said. "It's not about the money. I have to try and win. I have to shoot as low as I can because somebody else will. Second place doesn't do me any good at all."

Overton played in seven tournaments last year but did not finish among the top 50 money winners. That means he either needs sponsor exemptions or must qualify on Mondays to get into tournaments.

PEBBLE BEACH NATIONAL PRO-AM: Second-round leader Pat Perez made birdie on his last two holes to double his lead to four strokes. That was worth a little extra cushion, but not much more.

Not when you consider recent history at Pebble Beach, Calif. And not when you consider Perez's previous setbacks. The 25-year-old rookie blew a four-shot lead with eight to play in a Tour event two years ago.

"Hopefully, I'll have a different result," said Perez, who won the qualifying tournament in December, after shooting 70 at Spyglass Hill.

Perez finished the three-course rotation at 15-under 201 and led by four over Matt Gogel and Lee Janzen.

A big lead? Yes, the largest in 23 years. A safe lead? Not at Pebble Beach.

A year ago Davis Love came from seven behind on the last day to win with 63. The year before, Tiger Woods made up seven strokes in the last seven holes to win.

"We all know how leads can disappear very quickly," said Gogel, the victim of Woods' comeback in 2000.

Janzen shot 70 on Poppy Hills, and Gogel shot 67 on Spyglass to get to 205.

HEINEKEN CLASSIC: Ernie Els shot 3-under 69 to increase his lead to four at Melbourne, Australia. Els was at 14-under 202. Peter O'Malley was second after shooting 70. Michael Campbell (68) was 8 under with four others. John Daly shot 71 for 1-under 215.

SOUTH AFRICAN PRO-AM: Second-round leaders Retief Goosen and Scott Drummond each shot 3-under 69 to share the third-round lead at Sun City. Jaco van Zyl was two back after 64.

-- Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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