Thorpe Conintues to Shine

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SONOMA, Calif. -- SONOMA, Calif. (AP) -- In the past, Jim Thorpe and Tom Jenkins relaxed a bit too much while golfing in wine country.
 
On this trip, they're all business - and they're on top of the leaderboard at the Champions Tour's final event of the season.
 
Thorpe made five birdies on the final nine holes Thursday for a 9-under 63 at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, tying the tournament record for a round and taking a three-stroke lead over Jenkins.
 
The tour's biggest honors are still up for grabs, and Thorpe is among a handful of players with a chance at the money title. The Schwab Cup also will be awarded this weekend to the winner of the tour's season-long points competition - and the tournament winner receives $440,000 of the $2.5 million purse.
 
With those hefty stakes in mind, Thorpe postponed a trip to a local casino Wednesday afternoon to spend extra time honing his putting stroke in preparation for the fast, tricky greens at Sonoma Golf Club in the heart of wine country, 35 miles north of San Francisco.
 
Thorpe drew energy from his grouping with tour stalwarts Hale Irwin and Tom Kite. As his large gallery could testify, Thorpe has a long history of success in Northern California as a former winner of defunct events in Napa and the Sacramento area.
 
'I never did that good in Northern California on the regular tour,' Thorpe said. 'On the senior tour, I take it a little more seriously than I did before. ... This year, I came out to push myself as hard and as high as I really could on this tour.'
 
Most of the pros had no previous experience on the course, but Thorpe adapted quickly. He got on a roll after holing a 100-foot eagle chip on No. 8, and then had three birdies in four holes to begin the back nine.
 
'The golf course today was set up for low scoring,' Thorpe said. 'If they keep the greens the way they did today, there will be a lot of low scores.'
 
Thorpe's 63 matched the roving tournament's record set by Bob Charles in 1991 and equaled by Jay Sigel in 1994 and Bruce Lietzke in 2001.
 
Jenkins shot a 66 despite having terrible luck reading the greens. Tom Watson, who leads Lietzke by nearly 1,000 points atop the Schwab Cup standings, matched Larry Nelson's 68 for third. Craig Stadler and Kite were among seven players six strokes behind Thorpe.
 
Jenkins also made five birdies on the back nine to stay within striking distance of Thorpe. He also hopes to increase his chances by avoiding temptation: His brother owns an 18-acre winery in the area, and Jenkins remembers a few shaky performances in the local events after a few days of pre-tournament merrymaking.
 
'Because of the magnitude of this event, I'm trying to stay away from the vineyard,' Jenkins said. 'About the middle of the round, I felt my confidence coming back. It's funny how that works when you start making a few putts here and there.'
 
Watson, seeking his third tour victory this year, had two eagles on the back nine - including a 111-yard shot on the 11th that rattled into the cup. He expected to shoot lower than 68, but several missed putts limited him.
 
Watson could be playing his last tournament with longtime caddie Bruce Edwards, who has Lou Gehrig's disease but hopes to return next season.
 
'Both Bruce and I made mistakes today,' Watson said. 'We're just not reading these greens very well. I left a lot out on the golf course.'
 
Stadler, a three-time winner in his rookie year on the tour, took a break from the avid collector's 'week of wine' to play a solid round after winning last week's tournament in San Antonio.
 

Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Charles Schwab Cup Championship
  • Full Coverage - Charles Schwab Cup Championship