Originally created 07/11/98

Eagle helps Morgan take two-stroke lead



DEARBORN, Mich. -- Hot putter. Memorable wedge. Gil Morgan used both to forge a two-stroke lead over his biggest rival in the Senior Players Championship on Friday.

Morgan, who eagled the 10th hole, shot an 8-under-par 64 in the second round for a 133. That earned him a third-round pairing with Hale Irwin, who shot 69 for 135 at the TPC of Michigan.

Jack Nicklaus, who designed the 6,876-yard layout in the shadow of sponsor Ford Motor Co.'s world headquarters, shot 70 to tie Jim Albus at 137. Albus shot 69.

"Yesterday, I played at a pretty high level, tee to green," Morgan said. "Today, I played a little better and putted better."

Morgan and Irwin are easily the hottest players on the senior circuit. Each has won three times and they rank 1-2 on the money list. Irwin, who finished second in the State Farm Senior Classic last week, has earned $1.3 million, about $300,000 more than Morgan.

"Usually, if you play with Gil on the weekend, you're playing pretty well," Irwin said. "So, I'm happy to be playing with Gil."

Morgan, who was three strokes off the lead after an opening 69, birdied five of the first eight holes. His only bogey was at No. 9 where he hit a tree with an errant approach, then two-putted from 45 feet.

But he more than made up for that mistake when he holed his approach for an eagle-2 at the next hole.

"I hit an intermediate wedge from 110 yards out," Morgan said. "The ball hit about six feet from the pin, bounced twice and dove in the hole."

Morgan, who has nine top-10 finishes in 13 starts this season, made successive birdies at Nos. 12 and 13 to go 11-under and made it hold up the rest of the way under almost perfect playing conditions.

"It was kind of funny, because I really didn't look at the scoreboard until I made a couple of birdies," Morgan said. "Starting about No. 6, I looked and saw that Jack was still one shot ahead of me. He was going pretty strong.

"So, I thought, `Just keep plugging along here."'

Irwin, who shared the first-round lead with John Jacobs at 66, was tied for the lead with Morgan at 9-under through 11 holes. Irwin, who made his first bogey at No. 12, rebounded with an eagle-3 at the 13th.

But the damage was done. Morgan had gone 11-under and Irwin stumbled once more with a bogey at the difficult 17th, a par-5 where players must carry a long pond to a narrow, difficult green.

"I hit it just in the right rough on the left and I played a 4-wood out of there," Irwin said. "I just hit a nice, classic top shot. Went in the water. Stuff happens."

Nicklaus, whose streak of 154 majors will end when he skips the British Open next week, continued his strong play despite an ailing left hip. Nicklaus, at 58, was looking like the Golden Bear of old and shared the lead with Irwin at 8-under after nine holes.

Nicklaus got to 9-under with a birdie at No. 13, but bogeyed Nos. 14 and 16.

"I felt pretty good," Nicklaus said. "But with me, it's compared with what? With me, you never know. So far this week, the hip has been pretty good.

"It certainly never bothered me hitting a golf shot, and that's all you can ask for."

Players who weren't making lots of birdies were losing ground. Jose Maria Canizares, who was two strokes off the lead with an opening 68, was still 4-under but far back at 140 after an even-par 72 Friday.

Jacobs fell out of the lead fast and hard.

Jacobs, who claimed his first pro victory with a one-stroke victory over Irwin in the Nationwide Championship in June, went triple-bogey, double-bogey, bogey to open the second round. He was 40 at the turn and gone from the leader board.

Divots:

DeWitt Weaver, who played the front in 5-under 31 on Thursday, needed 39 strokes to play the same nine holes Friday. Weaver, who started the day three strokes off the lead, was at 143. ... Jim Albus said age is sometimes as much a factor as poor swing mechanics on the senior tour. "With this age group, if you don't have an ache, there's something wrong with you," Albus said. ... Irwin, who collected $100,000 last week, passed Greg Norman to become the leading career money winner among PGA players. He has amassed $12,030,109 over his professional golf career.