Gene Littler parlayed a late burst of three consecutive birdies into a 67 yesterday in Clemmons, N.C., to take a one-shot lead after two rounds of the $1 million Vantage Championships, the richest event on the Senior PGA Tour.
Littler started his surge with a 6-iron that stopped about a foot from the flag on the 15th. He followed with a 4-iron to eight feet on the 16th and stroked a wedge to within four feet on the 17th.
"I just happened to make three in a row. It made the whole day. If somebody had given me a 72 starting the day, I'd have been tickled to death. The conditions were not easy out there," Littler said of the cold, windy weather that saw golf's over-50 pros dressed in layers of sweaters and rain gear.
Littler, 57, the 1961 U.S. Open champion, completed two trips over the Tanglewood Country Club course in 137, 3 under par going into today's final round. The winner will go home with a $135,000 first prize.
Former Masters champion Gay Brewer, a nonwinner on the Senior Tour for three years, managed a 71 and was one shot behind Littler at 138.
Al Geiberger, a senior tour rookie, had a 67 and was tied at 139 with Jimmy Powell and Don January. Powell also had a 67 and January, winner of more than $1 million in Seniors play, had a 71.
Dunhill Cup: Scotland beat the United States, 3-0, and England upset two-time defending champion Australia, 2-1, in yesterday's semifinals of the $1 million Dunhill Cup team tournament at St. Andrews, Scotland.
Last week's Ryder Cup defeat returned to haunt the Americans as they lost to a Scottish team consisting of three of Europe's winning team at Muirfield Village, Ohio.
Nick Faldo, the British Open champion, sank a 15-foot birdie putt at the final hole to clinch England's place in the final after Australia's Rodger Davis, who shot a course record 63 Friday, squandered a three-stroke lead over the final three holes.
PGA: The British were having good fortune on this side of the Atlantic, too, as Ken Brown shot a 1-under-par 69 in 25 mph wins to take the lead after three rounds of the $400,000 Southern Open in Columbus, Ga.
Brown, 30, closing in on his first PGA Tour victory, increased his lead to five strokes entering today's final round.
Mike Hulbert, who was two shots behind Brown entering yesterday's play, managed a 2-over par 72 and was tied for second at 202 with Hale Irwin, who had a 69, including a 35-foot par-saving put on No. 18.
Middle Atlantic Amateur: Scott Gump of Merritt Island, Fla., shot one-under-par 71 in the rain at Chartwell in Severna Park to take a four-shot lead heading into today's final round of the 72-hole Middle Atlantic Amateur.
Gump, the medalist and semifinalist in this year's U.S. Amateur, has a 54-hole total of 216. His closest pursuer is Jim Estes of Greenbelt (74-220). Gump, who has led all the way, shot 70 Thursday and 75 Friday.
Buddy Peoples of Crofton is third at 72-223, followed by Curt Coulter of Charlottesville (70-224).