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Scott Simpson climbed to within striking distance with a stellar Saturday 69. (Feldman/Getty Images)

Notebook: Simpson stands out as only man under par

By Lauren Deason, PGATOUR.COM Editorial Coordinator

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Only one player shot below par in Saturday's third round of the Senior PGA Championship.

That man was Scott Simpson, whose 1-under 69 moved him into a tie for fourth. After opening with 76 on Thursday then following that with Friday's 71, Simpson suddenly made it look easy on Saturday. "(I) just started making a few putts. That's the only thing I changed," Simpson said. "No, I didn't make any changes. ... I think the weather helps. When it's warm, I like playing when it's warm better. The ball goes a little farther."

The San Diego, Calif., resident provided most of the heat on Saturday -- he birdied five of his last seven holes to finish with a sizzling 31 on the back nine.

"I didn't make any (birdies) the first day. I made three yesterday and I didn't make any until, I don't know what the heck I birdied, hole 12," he said. "...You pretty much just have to stay real patient on a course like this. This is a U.S. Open type course...just a great, great golf course."

As the rest of the field fought to see who could make the least bogeys, Simpson's 69 looked increasingly impressive. He teed off at 11:30 a.m., about two hours before the leaders, and got to relax while the others squirmed.

"It's a lot more fun (being near the top)," he said after finishing his round. "Hopefully if I'm within four or five shots of the lead, that's very exciting."

When the final putt dropped on Saturday, Simpson sat four strokes back of leader Bernhard Langer and well within striking distance.

FIRE IN THE HOLE: At the 1989 U.S. Open, the sixth hole at Oak Hill Country Club produced a near-impossible scenario.

In less than two hours during the second round, Doug Weaver, Mark Wiebe, Jerry Pate and Nick Price all used 7-irons to ace No. 6.

The odds of four professionals out of 156 players making a hole-in-one on the same hole in the same round were estimated at 332,000 to 1. That doesn't even factor in that they all used the same club.

On Saturday, Bruce Vaughan joined their club. Also using a 7-iron, he aced the 164-yard sixth hole.

"It landed just short of the hole, probably about five or six feet short," Vaughan said. "...I knew it was close but the way the sun was shining, it was tough to see it (go in)."

Despite the ace, Vaughan shot 76 and is 13 over par for the tournament.

"(The ace) was the only highlight of the day," he said. "Yesterday I missed three greens, today I hit three greens."

It was the first hole-in-one for Vaughan on the Champions Tour. The former firefighter out of Hutchinson, Kan., did not start playing golf until age 20 and only played 34 times on the PGA Tour.

After playing his way onto the Champions Tour in 2007 through open qualifying, Vaughan earned partial exemption for 2008 thanks to nine top-25 finishes last year. His best finish this season was a tie for 12th at the Cap Cana Championship.

By the way, there is a historical marker close to the hole that reads, "Denonville with army of 3,000 French and Indians crossed these grounds twice in July, 1687.''

Perhaps Oak Hill should consider adding another one by the green on No. 6: "Armed with 7-irons, Bruce Vaughan, Mark Wiebe, Jerry Pate, Doug Weaver and Nick Price only had to cross this green once for a hole-in-one."

A JAKE SPOTTING: Hey, isn't he supposed to be on the other side of the ropes?

Instead of creating drama at Oak Hill Country Club -- like he did at the 1980 PGA Championship (tied for 10th), 1989 U.S. Open (finished eighth), the 1995 Ryder Cup (1-2-0) and the 2003 PGA Championship (missed cut) -- Peter Jacobsen was only a spectator on Saturday.

Jacobsen's right knee surgery on March 29 forced him to withdraw from the Senior PGA Championship. He hasn't played on the Champions Tour since the AT&T Champions Classic in mid-March.

"It's two months post-op now and I'm up walking around, actually playing a little golf now," Jacobsen said of his post-surgery recovery.

In fact, he was able to walk the day of the surgery and began rehab three days later. He doesn't expect to return to competitive golf, however, for at least a month.

"I (have) played nine holes a couple of times," Jacobsen, a seven-time PGA Tour winner and two-time major winner on the Champions Tour, said. "But ... I want to make sure that I'm ready to play when I come out."

Obviously, knee surgery is a painful reason to miss the season's first major championship, but perhaps Jacobsen was more fortunate than his colleagues facing an extremely difficult test at Oak Hill. Did he have any regrets about not facing the bushy rough and challenging weather conditions?

"I really was looking forward to the course but, at the end of the week, my daughter is marrying a young man from Rochester on Saturday, so we are here with the family," he said. "And I expected to be playing, but we're just having fun."

IT'S ALMOST OVER: Jim Woodward glowered more than glowed when discussing Oak Hill Country Club after the third round.

How did he plan to approach the final round at the course that gave up only 136 birdies in Round 3?

"With relief. That I'm done with this SOB," Woodward candidly replied. "I mean I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have a round where I don't make the mistakes and, if not, at least I'm done with this beast."

He "got off to a horrendous start," he said, making double bogey on No. 3 and No. 5. But Woodward -- who played on the PGA Tour from 1990-1994 -- quickly righted the ship, making three birdies and just three bogeys on the next 13 holes.

"I guess if you're 5 over after five and you shoot 75 it's not too bad," said Woodward, who is tied for 21st after three days. "...It's just hard. I mean, just every shot. You just can't miss a shot."

HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME?: His pals and fellow Western New Yorkers Jeff Sluman and Joey Sindelar have stolen the show in Rochester.

But don't forget about Mike Hulbert, who grew up about an hour and a half from Oak Hill Country Club. Like Sluman and Sindelar, he's a rookie on the Champions Tour in 2008 and has a home-state advantage this week.

"I played here a long time ago when I was a little squirt," Hulbert said. "...And I did TV here in 2003 for CBS."

He rebounded from an 80 in the first round with rounds of 72 and 76 in the second and third rounds, respectively. Though he's tied for 60th and needs binoculars to look up at Sluman (tied for second) and Sindelar (tied for sixth) on the leaderboard, Hulbert is making the most of his first major championship after turning 50.

"It's a pleasure to play here, it's probably the fairest golf course there is in the country," he said.

"And the toughest, too."

A WEIRD CALL: Was it a prank caller? A golf ball collector? A golfer so confident in their ability to not lose balls on Oak Hill's menacing course that they only put one in the bag?

Whomever it was, Jeff Sluman said the caller created one of the oddest occurrences of the Senior PGA Championship.

"What made me laugh this week was someone called up the pro shop and Craig (Harmon) answered and they wanted to buy one golf ball," Sluman explained. "I thought that was a strange request.

"...You know, you don't usually call up and have the head pro actually answer during a major event and then the question is, 'Can I buy one golf ball?' So that kind of made me laugh."

Harmon has been the PGA Head Professional at Oak Hill Country Club for more than three decades and has worked with Sluman for nearly 30 years.

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