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Pernice pushes way atop leaderboard

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review

Tom Pernice Jr. was having a mediocre round until surprising himself with a spectacular stretch that pushed his name atop a shuffled leaderboard.

Pernice had an eagle and four birdies during a five-hole run and his 66 Saturday gave him the third-round lead at the topsy-turvy Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich.

“The way I was going along, I never dreamed I would get to 6 under,” he said. “Being patient pays off sometimes.”

Jesper Parnevik (64), Scott Verplank (69) and Brian Bateman (69) were a shot back entering the final round.

Former Buick Open champions Jim Furyk (71), Kenny Perry (71) and Woody Austin (69) were in a group of five players two strokes behind the leader.

Pernice and Verplank have also won at Warwick Hills, where an $882,000 check is truly up for grabs without regulars Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh around to dominate.

Woods (with his wife and baby) and Singh (resting a sore elbow) are not playing the Buick Open for the first time since 2001 after combining to win four of the previous five.

After playing the first 12 holes even par, Pernice eagled No. 13 then ripped off four straight birdies before finishing with a par.

Parnevik made the big move, going from a tie for 46th into a tie for second with an 8 under. He had the best round – by two strokes – as Warwick Hills became tougher with firm greens.

While players such as Pernice and Parnevik joined the leaders, Brett Quigley plummeted a day after firing his caddie.

“It was just time,” Quigley said of his mid-tournament decision.

Quigley’s 3-over 75 dropped him into a tie for 32nd at 7 under after starting the day tied with Furyk and Perry.

His play might’ve rubbed off on his playing partner, Furyk, who bogeyed two straight holes on the front nine by pulling a 4-footer and lipping out from 9 feet.

Furyk missed a 4-footer at 18 to bogey, finishing at 1 under for the day.

His streak of rounds in the 60s at the Buick Open ended at eight, equaling Woods’ tournament record, but he extended his run of subpar rounds to 36 at Warwick Hills.

Champions Tour

Lonnie Nielsen stopped checking to see how he was doing and he did just fine.

Nielsen had a stretch of five birdies in seven holes on the back nine and his 7-under 64 gave him a record-tying three-stroke lead over Tom McKnight after two rounds of the Commerce Bank Championship in East Meadow, N.Y.

Nielsen, who didn’t win in his five years on the PGA Tour or in his five seasons on the Champions Tour, had a 12-under 130 total after 36 holes on the 7,011-yard Red Course at Eisenhower Park.

The three-shot lead matches the tournament record set by Bruce Fleisher in 1999 and 2000, and equaled by Jay Sigel in 2001.

Nielsen started the day in third place, two strokes behind Loren Roberts and one behind Eduardo Romero.

His round didn’t get off to a great start as he bogeyed the par-3 No. 2

“I was scoreboard watching the first few holes and I’m usually not because it causes anxiety,” Nielsen said. “After that (bogey) I said, ‘The heck with it, let’s play some golf.’ You think I would have learned that by now.”

The decision to pay attention to his score instead of everyone’s paid immediate dividends. He birdied the next hole, a par-5, and added two more on the front side, including a 40-foot putt on the par-4 6th.

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