Originally created 04/18/99

Fleisher's 66 moves him into tie with Fernandez for lead



PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Bruce Fleisher fired a bogey-free 6-under-par 66 in drastically changing conditions Saturday and was tied with Argentina's Vicente Fernandez for the lead after three rounds of the 60th PGA Seniors Championship.

Showing glimpses of the form that propelled him to the best start in Senior PGA Tour history, Fleisher birdied four of the first six holes to match Fernandez with a 54-hole total of 10-under 206.

"I really made nothing the first two days. I think I made up for it today," Fleisher said.

Fernandez shot a 71 Saturday, falling out of sole possession of the lead with two bogeys over the final five holes. Spain's Jose-Maria Canizares was another stroke back after carding a 68, with nobody else closer than 6 under.

Saturday produced a stark contrast in conditions after two days of hot sun. The day began in warm muggy conditions before thunderstorms caused a delay of 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Temperatures dropped at least 10 degrees and the winds picked up, making play tricky down the stretch.

"It was different," Fernandez said of the final five-hole stretch. "The wind blew into us for those holes. (No.) 14 was playing long, 16 was playing long. (No.) 17 downwind is a very tough hole."

Fleisher did most of his damage before the storm came, playing the first five holes 3 under before play was suspended. Then he went out and birdied No. 6, a par-5, to get to 8 under. He also birdied the final two par-5s, draining a 5-foot putt at No. 18 to tie for the lead.

It was reminiscent of his performance in February, when he became the only player to win his first two Senior PGA Tour events. He also finished second the following week.

A bout with pneumonia then set him back, and he finished 27th two weeks ago at The Tradition.

"I felt that I lost momentum, no doubt," said Fleisher, who lives just a couple miles from PGA National. "It was really confusing."

Fernandez, the second-round leader, appeared ready to run away after an 8-foot birdie at No. 12 dropped him to 12 under. But he missed the greens at Nos. 14 and 16 and wound up with bogeys.

"My driver was my main problem today," Fernandez said. "I missed a lot of fairways, and that put me in a position that most of the time I have to go to the middle of the green, or even missing the green with my second shots."

Hale Irwin, needing to make up nine shots in his quest for history-making fourth straight PGA Seniors Championship title, saw those chances evaporate with a 70 Saturday. A bogey at No. 18 sealed the outcome.

"The chances of me passing all these players and winning are so infinitesimal that I'm not even thinking about it," said Irwin, who stood tied for 11th at 2-under 214.

Walter Hagen is the only golfer to win the same major tournament four consecutive times, dominating the PGA Championship from 1924-27.

ESTORIL OPEN: Jose Rivero of Spain shot a 3-under-par 69 in the third round Saturday and took a one-stroke lead in the Estoril Open in Sintra, Portugal with a 54-hole score of 214.

Denmark's Soren Kjeldsen moved into second place at 215 by shooting a 72 on his 24th birthday.

Scores were high because of tricky winds on the Penha Longa club course.

Portugal's Sean Corte-Real, who played at the University of the Pacific, matched Rivero's 69 and vaulted into a three-way tie for third place at 216.

With him were England's Gary Emerson, who shot a 72, and Sweden's Niclas Fasth with a 74.

Second-round leader Jeff Remesy wasted four shots on the last three holes for a 77 and a 218 that dropped him into a tie for 11th.