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Watson shoots 8-under, takes lead into final round

Tom Watson tees off at the 15th hole during the first round Friday. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Tom Watson tees off at the 15th hole during the first round Friday. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Associated Press

KAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii — Tom Watson had another near flawless round at the Champions Tour opener.

Watson extended his lead to three strokes with a second straight 64 on Saturday at the MasterCard Championship.

Using precise ball-striking and deft chipping, Watson was bogey-free and one shot off the course record for the second day in a row.

“I’m stuck on a good number,” Watson said. “I’m very proud of that score because I struggled a bit with the putter.”

Wayne Levi is second heading into Sunday’s final round at Hualalai Golf Club, which was vulnerable to low scoring on a cloudy and windless day.

“I’m happy with the way I played,” Levi said. “Out here, if you make a bunch of pars, everyone passes you by, so you have to bear down. Right now, Tom is hitting all the shots. He’s not getting himself in trouble. He’s doing everything well.”

Watson completed 36 holes in 16-under-par 128. That is the best starting 36-hole score in tournament history and ties the best consecutive 36-hole score. Levi, who registered six birdies in a seven-hole stretch starting at the ninth, shot a 65 to come in at 131.

Gil Morgan equaled Watson with a 64 and was tied for third at 12 under par with Dana Quigley, who shot a 65. Next at 10 under were Hale Irwin, who had a 65, Craig Stadler (67) and John Jacobs (67).

Morgan, Quigley and Irwin are all former champions.

Quigley forged a tie with Watson at 12-under when he nailed his second eagle at the par-5 14th, but Watson responded with a four-birdie run to re-establish his advantage.

Six of Watson’s eight birdies were no more than a foot in length.

“I didn’t really putt that well. I didn’t have the confidence I had yesterday, but I hit some quality shots,” said Watson, who missed just three greens Saturday and four in two days.

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