Calcavecchia’s lead shrinks at Tradition

Mark Calcavecchia looks up after finishing his round on Saturday during the Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek. Calcavecchia ended the day at 12-under, one stroke ahead of Jay Haas. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

SHOAL CREEK — It appeared Mark Calcavecchia would run away with the PGA Champions Tour’s first major championship of the 2011 season, the Regions Traditon, after he increased a four-stroke lead to six strokes through the first nine holes in the third round of the tournament Saturday, May 7 at Shoal Creek.

Calcavecchia gave hope to the rest of the field on the back nine.

The Tequesta, Fla. native hit a rough stretch on holes No. 12 and 13 and limped his way back to the clubhouse with a 1-under par 71 in the third round. Calcavecchia takes a one-stroke lead over Jay Haas into the final round of the tournament May 8.

Calcavecchia had a double bogey on hole No. 12 and a bogey on No. 13 to shave three strokes off his lead, which stood at six strokes as he made the turn to the back nine. Calcavecchia enters the final round with a tournament total 12-under par 204.

“I was kind of glad I ran out of holes,” Calcavecchia said. “I’ll start over tomorrow. I’m still in a good spot obviously.”

A large crowd joins Mark Calcavecchia to watch his tee shot sail towards the fairway on the 14th hole. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Haas, a Greer, S.C. native, is second in individual standings with his tournament total 11-under par 205. Haas made up four strokes in the third round after posting five birdies on his way to a 4-under par 67 in the third round.

“Golf is not a game where you go into a full-court press or throw a deep bomb,” Haas said. “It just doesn’t work that way. (Calcavecchia) did us all a favor. We were pretty fortunate for him to back up like that.”

Jay Haas reacts after sinking a putt during Saturday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Meanwhile, Tom Pernice, Jr., a playing partner of Greystone resident Steve Lowery in the first two rounds, made a surge up the leaderboard in the round and was tied for the lead with Calcavecchia before carding a double bogey on the final hole. Pernice, Jr. finished his round with a 4-under par 68.

Steve Lowery watches a putt on the 13th green during Saturday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

“I just didn’t make a very good stroke on No. 18,” Pernice Jr. said. “It’s not the end of the world. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Pernice, Jr. is currently tied for third with Tom Lehman of Scottsdale, Ariz., the tournament leader following the opening round, with a tournament total 10-under par 206. Lehman also fired a 4-under par 68 in the third round.

Kenny Perry, a Franklin, Ky. native, is also in contention after carding a 1-under par 71 in the third round. Perry is currently tied for fifth in individual standings with Australian Peter Senior, who had a 4-under par 68 in the third round, with a tournament total 9-under par 207. The pair is tied for fifth in individual standings.

Kenny Perry hits out of a sand trap on the 9th hole during Saturday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Kenny Perry hits a tee shot during Saturday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Peter Senior reacts after a putt on the 13th green came up just short of the hole during Saturday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Lowery dropped three shots after beginning the third round at 3-under par. Lowery, who shot a 3-over par 75, had six bogies in the round, including back-to-back bogies on two par 4 holes at No. 14 and No. 15.

Lowery, who is tied for 20th in individual standings at even par 216 entering the final round, said attacking the pin was much more difficult in the third round than it was in the first two rounds.

“The pin placements were tough,” Lowery said. “I struggled to the green. I got out of position. I just had a rough day today.”

Lowery, who trails the tournament leader by more than 10 strokes, said he’s going to give it his best shot in the final round Sunday.

“I’ve got nothing to lose,” Lowery said.

Lowery said he was pleased with a big jump in attendance in the third round at Shoal Creek. After mostly sporadic crowds during the first two rounds, Lowery said Saturday’s crowd more closely resembled a crowd at a major championship.

“The weather has been ideal,” Lowery said. “The players love the course. We’ve got to have big crowds and energy if we want to keep (the Tradition) here.”

Mark Calcavecchia tries to sink a long putt on the 17th hole during Saturday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Two more players dropped out of the field in the third round.

Mike McCullough, a Scottsdale, Ariz. native, withdrew from the tournament due to medical reasons, and Bobby Wadkins of Richmond, Va. left the tournament with a back injury.

Visit PGATour.com/s for complete individual standings.

Michael Allen hits out of the sand trap during Saturday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)