Originally created 10/01/00

Maggert takes two-stroke lead



PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- David Duval is right where he wants to be in his first tournament since July.

So is Jeff Maggert.

Despite failing to make birdie on any of the par-5s and watching his five-stroke slip away, Maggert responded with a late birdie Saturday in the Buick Challenge to build a two-stroke lead over Nick Price, with Duval right behind.

Maggert was far from worried.

"I feel like I've got one more really good round in me," he said after his second straight 69, giving him a chance to become the first wire-to-wire winner of the Buick Challenge in 23 years. "Hopefully, I can pull that off and make it easy on myself."

History is not his side.

This is the eighth time on the PGA Tour that Maggert, at 15-under 201, has had at least a share of the 54-hole lead. He has converted only one into a victory, the 1993 Disney Classic.

His accuracy off the tee and confidence in his putter might compensate for that.

"It seems like all the things I'm doing well is what you need to do to play well on this golf course," Maggert said. "I'd much rather be a couple of shots ahead. But if I play steady golf, I'm going to be tough to beat."

Price and Duval, both formerly ranked No. 1 with 27 victories between them, might have a say in that.

Price, playing for the third time in four weeks after two soggy tournaments in Japan, is fast finding his form. He kept his round together with a par save on the 14th and finished off a bogey-free 65 to get to 203.

"I wasn't trying to get into the last group. I just wanted to get close enough to have a shot at it tomorrow," Price said. "The most important thing for me is to go out and win."

Duval, who missed the last two months with a back injury, apparently didn't accumulate too much rust. With eight birdies in a round of 67, he has a good chance to win for the first time in 29 tournaments, dating to the BellSouth Classic in March of last year.

"I'm right where you want to be going into Sunday," said Duval, who made birdie on all the par-5s for the second time in three days. "You might wonder how I can come in here and play so well after being out so long. One of the reasons that might be is I'm playing without an injury."

Scott Hoch (68) and Carl Paulson (69) were at 206.

The last player to lead this tournament from start to finish was Jerry Pate in 1977, when it was called the Southern Open and played on a different course.

The Mountain View course at Callaway Gardens might look picturesque, but trouble awaits in Bermuda rough that is only about 3 inches deep but thick enough to make balls disappear. Maggert avoided it, hitting all but one fairway.

His trouble was on the par-5s, making pars on all of them.

"That's like giving away strokes to the field," he said.

Price took advantage with birdies on all of them, plus a 20-footer on the 17th that allowed him to get to within one stroke of the lead when Maggert took his lone bogey from a bunker on the par-3 16th.

Duval also got to within one stroke with a 25-foot birdie on No. 17, but he gave it back by pulling his approach into the rough on the closing hole, advancing his chip from a fluffy lie only 10 feet and two-putting for bogey from the fringe.

Duval played conservatively the first two days, trying to keep it simple as he worked his way back into mental shape after missing so much time. Saturday began with an assault on the Mountain View course, birdies on the first three holes to cut Maggert's lead to three shots.

But the momentum ended in the bunkers -- four in a row to close out the back nine. Duval twice got up-and-down for birdie and par, but two bogeys left him five behind after the first nine holes, the same place he started the day.

Maggert made few mistakes, just not enough birdies.

"If I keep driving the ball well, then I'll be all right," he said.

But he also took note of the players behind him, both taking advantage of the par-5s and Duval getting better with each round.

"After having a few months off, you're pretty hungry," Maggert said. "I'll have to play well tomorrow."

Price is hungry, too, having not won since the St. Jude Classic in 1998. He blames part of his victory drought on spending summer with his family -- with no regrets. The more he plays, the better he gets.

"This is a game of momentum," Price said. "Once you get the momentum going, the only question is when things start falling into place."

DIVOTS: Because heavy rains last week washed out bunkers and left several stones in the sand, the tournament used a local rule that pebbles could be removed. Duval couldn't tell if a small stone or a dirt clod was behind his ball in a bunker on No. 9, prodded it with a tee and decided to leave it alone. He then hit it through the green and had to get up-and-down for bogey. ... Davis Love III had a 68 for his 17th consecutive round under par on the Mountain View course. ... None of the top 13 players on the leaderboard has won this year on the PGA Tour. ... Paul Azinger, paired with Duval, hit only two fairways on the front nine. On one of those, his ball was in a divot.