Tom Pernice looking for win in Champions Tour debut

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Champions Tour

CARY, N.C. – Tom Pernice, Jr. fired his second consecutive 5-under 67 on Saturday to move atop the leaderboard after two rounds of the SAS Championship.

This is Pernice's debut on the Champions Tour and he finished 36 holes at 10- under 134. If he were to hold on Sunday, Pernice would become the 13th player to win his Champions Tour debut and first since Mark Wiebe did it at this championship two years ago.

First-round co-leaders Russ Cochran and Denis Watson both posted rounds of 3-under 69 on Saturday and are tied for second place with Dan Forsman, who had a 4-under 68 in round three. The trio is knotted at 9-under 135.

R.W. Eaks clutched his lower back most of the back nine Saturday, but still managed a 3-under 69. He is tied for fifth place with Nick Price (68) and Joey Sindelar (69) at minus-8.

Pernice started slowly with five consecutive pars, but broke into red figures with a birdie at the par-4. He parred his last three on the front to stay in the mix near the top of the leaderboard.

Back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11 got Pernice a share of first place. He parred his next three holes, but a birdie at No. 15 once again matched Pernice for first with several players.

Pernice was able to break free of the pack with an unusual birdie at the par-5 17th. His third bounced off the flagstick, then hit one of his playing partner's balls and eventually stopped 5 feet from the hole. He converted the birdie putt to reach 10-under par and move into sole possession of the lead.

At the final hole, Pernice had a decent look at birdie, but ran his effort almost 4 feet past the cup. He stroked home the par putt and no one was able to catch him in the last groups to give Pernice the second-round lead in his first foray into Champions Tour golf.

Pernice was in the middle of pretty poor season on the PGA Tour before this week. He tied for ninth at the 50th Bob Hope Classic in January for his only top 10. Pernice missed 11 cuts in 22 starts and only finished in the top 20 one other time after the Bob Hope and that was a tie for 15th at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee at the very beginning of July.

David Frost (68) and Larry Mize (70) share eighth at 7-under 137.

Mark O'Meara (67), Bob Tway (68), Olin Browne (66), Larry Nelson (69), D.A. Weibring (70), Bobby Wadkins (70), Jim Thorpe (71), Andy Bean (70) and Wiebe (68) are tied for 10th at minus-6.

Last year's winner Eduardo Romero won't be successfully defending his title. He shot a 1-under 71 on Saturday and is tied for 60th place.