North Heads North on Leaderboard

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Cary, NC -- Andy North birdied his final four holes Saturday en route to a 6-under 66 and the second-round lead at the SAS Championship. His two-day total of 10-under-par 134 established a new 36-hole record and gave him a one-shot lead over 2001 champion Bruce Lietzke, who set a new course record with a 9-under-par 63.
 
Tom Watson carded a 66 and is tied for third place with the man who beat him in a playoff at this year's U.S. Senior Open, Don Pooley, as well as Tom Purtzer, Dana Quigley and overnight leader Jim Thorpe. The group stands at 7-under-par 137.
 
During Saturday's second round, Lietzke was the story as he cruised up the leaderboard, but by the time play reached the back nine, it was all North. North birdied No. 10 to reach 2-under for the round, but the best was yet to come for the two-time U.S. Open champion.
 
At the 15th, North drained an 18-footer for birdie from off the green. He knocked a pitching-wedge to four feet to set up birdie at the 16th and made it three in a row with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 17th.
 
North capped off his round of 66 with a beautiful 9-iron approach at the 18th that landed four feet from the hole. He ran home the birdie putt to take the lead into the final round for the first time since joining the Senior Tour in 2000.
 
'Starting the day, you're thinking you're going to have to shoot low scores and I got off to a quick start with a birdie at No. 1,' said North, who made it into the tournament as an alternate after Tom Wargo went into the hospital for heart problems last week. 'Then I played some really nice shots at the end and all of the sudden it was a wonderful round of golf.'
 
North is winless in 66 starts on the Senior Tour and has not visited the winner's circle since the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills.
 
'I had numerous physical problems I went through the last 10 or 12 years where I couldn't golf,' said North, who works as an analyst for ESPN. 'It's fun to be in the last group. You get up on Sunday; you're nervous and it means something.'
 
Lietzke tallied four birdies over the first 13 holes, but his late play propelled him into second place. He holed a 10-foot birdie putt at the 15th and made it back-to-back birdies with a 15-footer on No. 16.
 
At the par-5 17th, Lietzke's 60-footer for eagle found the bottom of the cup, putting him one birdie away from breaking the course record.
 
He knocked a 6-iron to eight feet at 18 and converted the putt to break Thorpe's previous mark of 64.
 
'I got caught up in a whirlwind at the end,' said Lietzke, a two-time winner on tour in 2002. 'That finish really moved me up the leaderboard. I didn't come close to any bogeys today.'
 
Lietzke might have an advantage of the field come Sunday. In 2001, he fired a 66 in the final round to take the title in the tournament's first appearance on the Senior Tour schedule.
 
'That would be something the other players are aware of and I'm aware of,' said Lietzke. 'I know how this golf course can play on Sunday. That's a plus for me.'
 
Wayne Levi is alone in eighth place at 6-under par, followed by Dick Mast, Jim Ahern, Gil Morgan, Allen Doyle and Sammy Rachels, who share ninth at minus-5.
 

Full-field scores from SAS Championship