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Nick Price says staying focused in difficult conditions this week has been the key to his success. (Photo: Getty Images)
Nick Price says staying focused in difficult conditions this week has been the key to his success. (Photo: Getty Images)

Price within striking distance; Romero still the man

Nick Price is making the most of his Senior PGA Championship debut. The three-time major winner shot 2-under 70 Friday at the Ocean Course to improve to 3 under par and remain in contention behind leader Eduardo Romero of Argentina, who shot 70 and was at 6 under, and Japan's Joe Ozaki, whose 71 left him at 4 under.

By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Following the first round of the 68th Senior PGA Championship on Thursday, Nick Price noted that leader Eduardo Romero was an exceptional player in the wind.

Price wasn't kidding. Romero, an Argentine, followed up his tournament-low 4-under 68 at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course from Thursday with a 2-under 70 on Friday. At 6-under-par 138 he has a two-shot lead over Japan's Joe Ozaki and a three-shot edge over Price heading into the weekend. Denis Watson trailed by four shots after 36 holes, while 2006 Senior PGA Champion Jay Haas and runner-up Brad Bryant where five off the pace at 1-under-par 143.

"Well, today I'm playing different than yesterday," said Romero, whose one win on the Champions Tour came at the 2006 JELD-WEN Tradition. "Today my swing is, when I start, it's not too good. But after nine holes, my swing has come back and then my concentration has come back. But it is OK. I played 2 under is a perfect round for today."

Only one player cracked 70 on Friday -- PGA Professional Mike San Filippo, with a stellar 69 -- which was surprising considering conditions were more benign than on Thursday when winds reached upwards of 30 mph. Seventy-eight players made the cut, which fell at 8-over-par 152.

"I can't believe it," San Filippo said. "I just tried to play one hole at a time today and not get thinking too much. I thought the course was doable."

When asked, Romero agreed that a two-shot lead on a course as difficult as the Ocean Course almost felt more like a four- or five-shot advantage provided he could stay away from big trouble.

"I think so. You have to be very careful on this golf course because when you lose the concentration for a couple seconds you can make a double or triple bogey like that quickly," he said. "I know this course is very difficult. You have to be very patient, very quiet. I know two strokes is nothing on this course. You have to play it very careful."

Ozaki had an interesting start to his round with two birdies and two bogeys in a four-hole stretch beginning on No. 11 -- he played the back nine first. Two birdies on the front along with one bogey secured Ozaki's 1-under 71, which required only 25 putts, highlighted by a 30-footer that dropped for birdie on No. 2.

"I'm very surprised and satisfied to be at the position that I'm in," said Ozaki, who has four top-10 finishes on the Champions Tour this year and tied for 31st in his Senior PGA Championship debut last year. "I hope to continue to play well into the weekend."

Price, looking for his first win in seven career starts on the Champions Tour and making his Senior PGA Championship debut, had five birdies and three bogeys on his way to a 2-under 70.

"I hit a lot of good iron shots into the wind today," Price said. "And the big thing is not to have any really bad holes out there. When I'm 1 or 2 under for the championship, I'm really playing cautiously. I'm not trying to play too aggressively because there are some holes out there you can make some really big numbers on. So it's sort of like just picking your way a little through this golf course and I did that very well both yesterday and today."

Not everyone was able to avoid that big number Price was talking about.

For the second day in a row, the par-3 17th hole played as the toughest on the course with a stroke average of 3.693. It was shortened from 178 yards to 164 yards on Friday, but still rendered only five birdies. There were 82 pars, 41 bogeys, 15 double bogeys and 10 "others," including a big, fat 10 by Hawaii's David Ishii, who wound up with a 10-over 82.

Ishii's tee shot found the water to the right of the green. From the drop area, he proceeded to hit his third shot in the water as well. Playing his fifth shot from the drop area, Ishii deposited his ball into the left greenside waste area bunker. His sixth shot from the waste area zipped out, through the green and into the water again. He dropped in the waste area and played his eighth shot onto the green and then two-putted.

There's no question that of the six players left under par, Price -- with his 18 PGA TOUR wins, including three majors in two PGA Championships (1992, '94) and one British Open -- is the most accomplished regardless of the fact that he has yet to chalk up his first win on the Champions Tour. He believes that experience could help him greatly over the final 36 holes and pointed to his 1992 win in the PGA Championship at Bellerive, which featured no "physical or mental mistakes on the back nine," as an example.

"That old line that Jack Nicklaus always said, you know, and forgive me if I don't get it right, he said, 'Well, I managed to keep my head while all of those around were losing theirs,'" Price said. "That sort of keeps ringing in my head, because that's what I think I did so well when I was winning. I stayed patient. I think it's going to be to each his own, but I'm going to try and stick to my game plan and not get away from what I've done well these last two days and hopefully it will be good enough."

Haas could prove to be a tough customer for Romero, Ozaki and Price on the weekend, too. Aside from being the defending champ, he's also got the local support playing not far from his home of Greenville, S.C.

"I'm certainly not out of it," Haas said. "I feel like anything in the red, even 1, 2 over, you know, it's hard to catch up in this, but the leaders can certainly fall back. When you shoot a 69 or 68 this in something like this you're going to make a huge move. So yeah, I think I'm still in it. Pretty pleased with the day."

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