By RODNEY PAGE and BOB HARIG
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 23, 2003
LUTZ -- Larry Nelson, 1999 Verizon Classic champion, withdrew after nine holes because of a pinched nerve in his neck. Stewart Ginn also withdrew after nine holes with an arm injury.
For Nelson, the neck injury dates to 1998, his rookie year on the Senior PGA Tour, now called the Champions Tour. When the injury flares up, as it did Saturday, it causes a loss of sensation in his right arm.
"It was acting up all day," said Nelson, who was 1-under par after Friday's round and three shots off the lead. "It got to the point where I couldn't tell if I was going to putt the ball 8 feet or 20 feet. I couldn't play anymore."
Nelson is not sure he can play in his next scheduled tournament, March 17 at the Toshiba Senior Classic in Newport Beach, Calif..
"Right now the only thing to do is rest and see what happens," he said.
Ginn was 1 over par Friday but shot 3-over 38 on the front Saturday. He did not tee off on No. 10.
NICKLAUS STILL STRUGGLING: Jack Nicklaus said he hit three bad shots in Saturday's windy round. Each found the water and led to double bogey, essentially ruining an otherwise good day.
"I made three of the worst shots you'll ever want to look at, and I made three double bogeys because of it," Nicklaus said. "Outside of that I can't complain too much."
Nicklaus made double bogey at Nos. 8, 10 and 14, which led to 75. He was 4 over, 10 shots off the lead.
Nicklaus expects to win every tournament he enters, but today he mostly will be playing for pride.
He did not blame any of his woes on the gusty conditions. Instead, he said, the problem was poor shotmaking. On the par-4 eighth he hit a downhill 3-wood left and into the water. On the par-4 10th he bladed a 6-iron into the water. And on the par-5 14th he hooked his tee shot into the water.
"Ridiculous," Nicklaus said. "I really have no other complaints about how I played. I handled the wind pretty well, but if you want to play golf you can't make swings like that."
NOTEWORTHY: Charles Coody had an interesting back nine. He birdied the 11th and 12th, bogeyed the 13th, double-bogeyed the 14th and quadruple-bogeyed the 15th. He also triple-bogeyed the 18th to finish the nine with 45. He shot 12-over 83, tied for the day's highest score with Gary Koch.
COMEBACKERS: It won't be a surprise if someone comes from behind to win today. Since the tournament moved to the TPC of Tampa Bay in 1992, eight of the 11 events have been won by a player who came from off the pace on Sunday. Bruce Fleisher, the overnight leader at 6 under with three holes left to play in the second round, won the 2000 event after holding the Saturday lead.
TWO-TIMERS: Fleisher goes for his 16th Champions Tour win and tries to become the third player to win the event twice. Bob Charles won in 1989 and '91, and Jim Albus won in '93 and '98.
THE OLD MAN: Hale Irwin can become the oldest winner in tournament history at 57 years, 8 months and 20 days. That would surpass Albus, who won in '98 at 57 years, 7 months and 27 days.