Van Pelt Holds Slim Lead in Puerto Rico

RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Bo Van Pelt understands many careers could be changed forever Sunday, including his own. Van Pelt maintained his one-stroke lead at the Puerto Rico Open, heading a leaderboard of players old and young searching for that breakthrough PGA Tour win or battling to regain past success.

Van Pelt, at 32, is among the former. He's earned better than $1.3 million on tour each of the past few season but has never won.

He shot a 71 at Trump International Golf Club on Saturday to move to 13 under.

Right behind him were 43-year-old Greg Kraft (69), who's only win came in 1993, and 35-year-old Briny Baird (69), who's never done better than second.

Another stroke behind were Brenden Pappas and Jerry Kelly. Pappas has never won on tour, while Kelly's two career victories came in 2002.

The winner will earn $630,000, a huge sum, along tour playing privileges through 2010. For players like Pappas and Kraft, victory could bring fewer sleepless nights about their next tournament.

Those incentives could mean an awful lot of jittery golfers in the final groups.

"I guess we'll have to wait and see tomorrow," Van Pelt said. "It also could be fun because it's going to mean a lot to somebody who hasn't won in a while or the fact that it's first."

Baird won't focus on what he hasn't accomplished, only the way he's playing. Besides, he figures, it could be worse on the field.

"Doesn't it make me more nervous knowing the other guys in front of me and behind me haven't won a PGA Tour event? No," he said. "It's make me really nervous if there were one other guy in the field."

No chance of that. World No. 1 Tiger Woods is at Doral, competing in the rain-delayed CA Championships, a World Golf Championship tournament.

Judging from the way things bunched up here in the third round, Sunday could bring a wild Puerto Rico shootout.

Marco Dawson (69) and Tommy Armour III (67) were tied at 10 under, with Ryan Blaum (72) and Ted Purdy (73) another shot behind.

Van Pelt decided late to play in the tour's first visit to the island - he usually takes weeks opposite WGC events like this one off to relax and recharge.

Van Pelt's schedule change has worked so far.

He opened here Thursday with a 64, his lowest round in nine months, and continued his near flawless play with a 68 on Friday. He looked ready to keep that going early in the third round with birdies on two of his first five holes, opening a three-shot lead.

That's when Van Pelt's game stalled, particularly his putter.

He slid a testy 10-footer by on No. 9 for a bogey, then dropped into a tie for the top with Pappas after a bogey on the 14th hole.

Van Pelt rallied back down the stretch, rolling in a 10-foot birdie try on the 16th to regain the lead. He had a chance to extend his margin on the 18th, but missed a 12-foot birdie try.

Van Pelt said an elbow injury flared up on him on the ninth, leading to his bogey.

"It was a little bit more of a struggle," he said. "I'm striking the ball well, I just didn't convert on the short birdie putts."

His strategy on Sunday? Keep going low.

Baird knows one thing - the winner will be the one who pushes forward.

"With that many guys, you know it's not going to come back," he said. Twelve or 13-under par won't hold up, "I can promise you that," Baird said.

Kelly was the highest ranked golfer playing here at No. 63 and looked to have momentum after a second-round 66 left him a stroke from the top.

Very little went right for Kelly early on with four bogeys, including three straight to close the front. After Kelly's final bogey on the ninth, he slammed his ball against his putter head in disgust.

Just when it looked like Kelly was through, he rallied with birdies on the 14th, 15th and 18th holes - the middle one a chip from in front of the green - to keep himself in contention.

Kraft put together his third straight sub-70 round to start a tournament, something he hadn't accomplished since the Tucson Open in 2002. That's also the tournament where Kraft says he contracted Valley fever, which attacked his lungs and set his career back for several seasons.

"I'm tickled pink where I'm at," Kraft said. "You never know what'll happen."

Divots:@ Seventy-five of the 81 players made the second cut of 1-over par. Doug Labelle II earned $6,300 for last place. ... Probably won't see this at Doral: As the lead group walked up to its tee shots on the first hole, three dogs fought with an iguana on the adjacent practice fairway. The dogs took turns carrying the iguana until tournament staff drove over to shoo them away. The iguana, who seemed all right for its ordeal, was carried back into the thick tropical brush.


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