Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

As Watson Slips, Open Picture Gets Fuzzy Bright Weather Allows Zoeller, Faxon to Shine

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

As Watson Slips, Open Picture Gets Fuzzy Bright Weather Allows Zoeller, Faxon to Shine

Article excerpt

Tom Watson's worst-case weather scenario played out Saturday at too-tame Turnberry.

A sun-sparkling sky and hardly a hint of a breeze turned the potentially fearsome Ailsa course into just another birdie sanctuary by the sea, allowing Fuzzy Zoeller and Brad Faxon to take the lead by a stroke over Watson in the 123rd British Open. Scads of other players found themselves back into the chase for the championship after three rounds.

Aiming for a record-tying sixth title, Watson wanted windy and wild elements, the tougher the better. Instead, the 36-hole leader found himself under attack from all fronts, even as he managed a scrambling yet respectable round of 69 that included birdies on the last two holes but two more missed par putts inside 2 1/2 feet that cost him at least a share of the lead.

Just in front of him, Faxon and Nick Price of Zimbabwe were applying the most visible and audible pressure, the sound that only birdies can produce. And thundering roars from every corner of what Watson described as "a very receptive golf course" told him that lots of lovely numbers were being put up by just about everyone else. In fact, 42 men in the remaining field of 81 posted rounds in the 60s on the vulnerable par-70 course.

Faxon, with four PGA Tour victories, did his part with a 67 and a 54-hole total of 9-under 201, Zoeller's score after a third-round 64. Faxon, 32, hasn't made a bogey since the 13th hole Thursday, a stretch of 41 holes, and said "winning this would be a very big deal for me."

Price was not so fortunate, bogeying the 18th hole for the second day in succession, a misadventure that left him at 67-202, tied for second with Watson, Jesper Parnevik of Sweden (68) and Ronan Rafferty of Ireland (65).

Four groups ahead of Watson and Parnevik, Zoeller was merely shooting a round 1 stroke off the British Open record of 63. It began when he hit a wedge to within a foot of the 350-yard opening hole for the first of seven birdies in his round, which featured four putts between 20 and 25 feet and ended with a chance to win the third major of his career.

Zoeller, the 1979 Masters and 1984 U.S. Open champion, hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 1986, though he's been close this season. In three successive tournaments - the Bob Hope Classic, Nestle Invitational and Players Championship - he finished second. He's earned $523,000 this season, ninth on the money list.

"I would not be sitting here if I didn't think I had another major left in me," said Zoeller, 42.

Zoeller, whistling happily down every fairway, was perfectly matched with David Feherty of Northern Ireland, known on the PGA Tour and before that the European circuit as a free-spirited soul who loves to tell a joke or three. Not only did the laughs come free and easily, so did the birdies. Feherty, who had to qualify to make the field, shot 66 himself and is now at 7-under 203 and in contention. …

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