Sunday, February 22, 2004

Weir widens Nissan lead to 5

Daly falters to 8 shots back after 54 holes

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Mike Weir would seem to be the last guy at Riviera with something to prove.

He already has his portrait hanging in the clubhouse from winning the Nissan Open last year. He has a green jacket as the Masters champion. His 5-under 66, a masterful performance Saturday, gave him a five-shot lead and broke the 54-hole tournament record.

Even so, Weir knows better than to look ahead.

"I'm looking at it as a big challenge," Weir said. "I want to prove to myself that I can handle a five-shot lead."

He has built a reputation as the comeback Canadian, winning all six of his PGA Tour events from off the lead. The challenge today is to win for the first time out front. There was that 80 he shot in the final round of the '99 PGA Championship when paired with Tiger Woods. Most recently, Weir shot a 75 in the final round at the 2002 Honda Classic, falling into a tie for 11th.

His final-round scoring average with at least a share of the lead is 73.6. At least he has some room for error.

Weir separated himself from John Daly and the rest of the pack with one swing - a 4-iron into 15 feet on the par-3 sixth hole - then turned the Nissan Open into a runaway Saturday.

He finished at 17-under 196, breaking by one shot the 54-hole record set by Fred Couples in 1992.

Shigeki Maruyama, who started the third round tied with Weir, stayed in range until bogeys on both par 3s on the back nine. A birdie on the final hole gave him an even-par 71, five shots behind.

Jeff Maggert had a 69 - his third straight round in the 60s - and was at 11-under 202.

"I didn't expect to shoot 5 under," Weir said. "But my putter has just been on fire."

The gallery took their hands off umbrellas long enough to clap and cheer Daly, but it couldn't sustain him. Daly missed several short birdie opportunities and shot 72, leaving him eight shots off the lead.

Daly was in the hunt, along with so many others, until the third round took shape on one hole. The par-3 sixth is famous for having a bunker in the middle of the green, and with the pin tucked back and to the left, it played as the second-toughest hole Saturday.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Mark McNulty put himself in position to win in his first over-50-tour start, shooting a 6-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead in the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am at Lutz, Fla.

McNulty, from Zimbabwe, won the tour's qualifying tournament late last year, but was forced to withdraw from events in Miami and Naples because of the shingles.

NATIONWIDE TOUR: Australia's Euan Walters shot a 1-under 70 for a 6-under 207 total to take a one-shot lead after the third round of the Jacob's Creek Open at Adelaide, Australia.

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