Kite Still in Command of the Cup


04 Charles SchwabSONOMA, Calif. -- Tom Kite battled heavy rain and cold temperatures on Saturday to shoot an even-par 72 and take the third-round lead of the Champions Tour's season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship. He stands at 10-under-par 206 and is two ahead of Jose Maria Canizares at Sonoma Golf Club.
Canizares posted a 2-under 70 on Saturday and is in second place at 8-under-par 208. Hale Irwin, who holds a 39-point lead over Craig Stadler in the race for the Charles Schwab Cup and its $1 million, tax-free annuity, managed a 2-over 74, but is alone in third at minus-7.
With Sonoma Golf Club playing so difficultly thanks to the rain and wind, no player really threatened Kite's lead. Kite, the 1992 U.S. Open champion, played solidly with seven consecutive pars to open his round, but things went downhill for the 54-year-old.
At the eighth, Kite drove into the left rough and had a tough shot ahead of him because of a tree hanging over his potential ball flight. Kite hit the tree and the ball stopped a few yards ahead in the fairway. He bogeyed the hole and hit a nice approach at nine, but the spin left him with a two-putt par from 45 feet.
Canizares, who mixed three birdies and a bogey over his front nine, sank a 15-foot birdie putt at the 11th to match Kite in the lead at 9 under par. Kite, two groups behind Canizares, hit a spectacular 5-iron 12 feet right of the flag at 10 and drained the birdie putt to go one ahead.
Canizares ran into trouble at the 12th hole. He had an awkward stance and lie in a bunker and blasted out to 8 feet. Canizares missed the par-saving putt to go from a share of the lead, to two down in the span of two holes.
Kite hit a horrible tee ball at the par-3 14th that landed left of the bunkers guarding the green. He pitched 10 feet past the hole and missed the par putt to cut his advantage to one.
At the 15th and 16th holes, Kite hit safe approach shots that did not give him good looks at birdie. He made a pair of pars at those holes, then made a nice save at the par-3 17th when Kite's tee ball missed the green.
Kite found the fairway at the 18th when the rain was at its hardest. He hit a 7-iron to 6 feet, then ran home the birdie putt to get back his two-shot lead.
'I drove it a little better today than I did yesterday, or it would have been a long, long day,' said Kite. 'I played better today than yesterday, but didn't score a whole lot better. '
Kite has only one victory this season, at the 3M Championship in early August, but has notched 12 top-10s. A victory on Sunday would be his eighth since joining the Champions Tour in 2000.
'I've won a tournament, I've played well in a number of tournaments, played well in the major championships on this tour, and this has been a very, very good year,' said Kite, who can win the Charles Schwab Cup race with a win on Sunday and some help from Irwin and Stadler. 'But this could have been a phenomenal year. There's no question about it.'
Allen Doyle had the round of the day on Sunday with a 5-under 67. He is tied for fourth place with last week's SBC Championship winner Mark McNulty (68) at 5-under-par 211.
Dana Quigley and Morris Hatalsky shared second place after Friday's second round, but both struggled on Saturday. They posted matching rounds of 5-over-par 77 and share sixth at minus-4.
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