Fernandez focuses on collecting his first major, fires 64

Saturday, June 28, 2003

TOLEDO, Ohio -- Vicente Fernandez believes he's owed a major championship. On Friday, at the U.S. Senior Open, he took a step toward claiming it.

Fernandez went birdie-birdie-eagle early in his round, then closed it with three birdies in a glittering 7-under 64 that gave him a one-shot lead over Tom Watson after two rounds of the U.S. Senior Open.

"I would like to win one because I think the majors owe me at least one on the senior tour," Fernandez said.

The 57-year-old Argentine has finished second twice and third three times in senior major championships, including being runner-up by one shot to Hale Irwin at the 1998 Senior Open at Riviera.

Fernandez's round followed a 73 and left him at 5-under 137. It was the lowest round of the day by five shots and was 13 strokes under the average score of the 156-player field.

The 64 was the lowest second-round score in 24 Senior Opens and was one shot off Vijay Singh's competitive course record at Inverness Club, set during the second round of the 1993 PGA Championship.

"It happened that it was my day and I was lucky," Fernandez said. "I played well and I took advantage of it. That's the big difference."

He started Friday in a logjam for 12th, seven shots behind Watson, the first-round leader with a 66.

While the rest of the field -- including Watson -- had difficulty gauging the speed of the hard, fast greens at Inverness, Fernandez hit his approaches so close that he eliminated a lot of the guesswork.

"The difference was that I made three or four mental mistakes and I made four bogeys," Fernandez said, comparing his first round with the second.

Watson started and ended his round of 72 with bogeys and was at 138. Bruce Lietzke was at 140 after a 71, with Allen Doyle (69) at 141 and Fuzzy Zoeller another stroke back after a 71.

St. Jude Classic

John Huston made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole Friday and joined PGA Tour rookie Richard S. Johnson as a co-leader after the second round of the St. Jude Classic.

Huston turned in his best round of the year as he had an eagle and six birdies in a bogey-free round for an 8-under 63 and 130 total.

Johnson, who had a 66 Friday, had shared a one-stroke lead after the first round with Jay Haas and Darron Stiles. Johnson had a longer day, having to play 25 holes to wrap up the first round, which had been suspended by rain Thursday night.

David Peoples (66) was at 131 with Fredrik Jacobson (67) and David Gossett (67) at 133. Haas, who had seven straight birdies Thursday, shot a 70 Friday and was tied with Lee Janzen (66) and Kirk Triplett (67) at 134.

Stiles shot a 74 and was eight strokes off the lead in the tournament sponsored by FedEx. A total of 78 players made the cut at 1-under.

Shoprite LPGA Classic

With Annika Sorenstam having mixed success using a new ball and phenom Michelle Wie struggling with her putter, three less-publicized players shared the first-round lead in the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

Laura Diaz, Kris Lindstrom and Angela Stanford shot 6-under 65s and held a one-shot lead over Hall of Famer Juli Inskter, who once again seems to be peaking with a defense of the U.S. Women's Open on tap next week.

The much anticipated battle between Sorenstam and Wie -- the two biggest current names in women's golf -- never materialized on a hot, humid day on the Bay Course of the Seaview Marriott Resort and Spa.

The No. 1 player in women's golf, Sorenstam shot a scrambling 1-under 70 in a round where she had trouble controlling her distance playing the new Calloway Hex-Tour ball.

Wie, the 13-year-old who seems to be the future for women's golf, settled for a par round after making a crowd worthy of a leader's group groan repeatedly by missing six makable birdie putts.

Missouri Amateur

For the second straight day Jay Hepler of Overland Park, Kan., eliminated a Southeast Missouri golfer at the 96th Missouri Amateur Golf Championship at Hickory Hills Golf Club in Springfield.

Hepler defeated Mark Allen of Jackson 1-up in Friday's morning round of 32 before being eliminated in the afternoon round of 16. In Thursday's first round of match play, Hepler had defeated Janszen Ringo of Cape Girardeau 3 and 2.

The only golfer from Southeast Missouri to survive Friday's two rounds of match play was James Godwin of Poplar Bluff. Godwin defeated Brent Kriegshauser of Leawood, Kan., 2 and 1, then disposed of Richard Gleghorn of Springfield 5 and 4 to reach today's quarterfinals.

Like Allen, Brandon Couch of Sikeston fell in the round of 32, suffering a 5 and 4 loss to David Jenkins of Springfield.-- From staff, wire reports

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