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Toshiba Senior Classic Golf: Irwin turns the corner

March 10, 2002

Richard Dunn

NEWPORT BEACH -- Even with another dirt-low round Saturday, Hale

Irwin is still rolling up his sleeves and grinding, like a mechanic

tinkering with a finely tuned race car.

Irwin, the Senior PGA Tour's all-time leading money winner and career

leader in victories with 33 tournament titles, started with a new set of

golf clubs before the eighth annual Toshiba Senior Classic at Newport

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Beach Country Club, and, on moving day, began to run away from the

77-player field before an estimated crowd of 24,000 in perfect weather

conditions.

Speaking of perfect, Irwin, who shot 7-under-par 64 in the second

round to build a three-stroke lead heading into today's final round, is

still trying to get there.

"I'm going to try a new 3-wood and a new 4-wood right now. They're

waiting for me at the driving range," Irwin said. "You're always

perfecting."

Irwin, the 1998 Toshiba Classic champion, said "it's always fun to

play in the last group on Sunday," and he'll get that chance today as he

tries to become the tournament's first two-time winner.

Allen Doyle, the 2000 Toshiba winner, Larry Nelson and Gil Morgan are

tied for second at 8-under and will try to catch Irwin. Tied for fifth at

7-under are Don Pooley, Walter Hall and Monday qualifier Michael Zinni.

"Keep 'em coming," Irwin quipped after Friday's first round, referring

to his age (56) and ability to seemingly stave off a new crop of

50-year-olds each year, while continuing to dominate the Senior Tour.

Irwin birdied the par-4 No. 16 to separate himself from Doyle and move

to 10-under. Irwin's lead stretched to two strokes when Doyle bogeyed the

par-3 17, after hitting his tee shot in the right bunker.

With the ropes dropped behind Irwin and Doyle for fans to follow at

18, Irwin birdied the par-5 finishing hole, where a bunker shot from 60

feet landed three feet from the flag.

"I hit a lot of fairways and greens," said Irwin, who won the '98

Toshiba with a course-record 62 in the final round with the help of the

Famous Bunker Rake at 17, which stopped his tee shot from rolling in the

water.

"When I shot that 62, I don't want to say it was a miracle, but I was

making putts that day and greens were not as smooth as they are now,"

said Irwin, who has won 17 of 22 events in which he has led or been tied

for the lead after 36 holes on the Senior Tour.

But how important is the second round in this tournament? In the

previous seven events, the 36-hole leader has won the event just twice --

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