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Mark O'Meara
Once he found the greens on Saturday, Mark O'Meara was almost unstoppable. (Getty Images)

Red-hot putter boosts O'Meara within striking distance

Mark O'Meara aided his quest for his first solo Champions Tour victory with nine one-putts on Saturday. If he can conquer his nerves and stay patient, he says, he's got a great chance for a breakthrough.

PARKER, Colo. (AP) -- Mark O'Meara's only win on the Champions Tour came with a caveat: It was a team event and he was paired with Nick Price. He's in position to win again, this time flying solo.

O'Meara turned in a 5-under-par 67 on Saturday in the third round of the Senior PGA Championship, leaving him two shots behind co-leaders Jay Don Blake and Tom Lehman. A win here would mean a lot to the 53-year-old, maybe even as much as when he hoisted the Masters and British Open trophies in 1998.

"It would be a feather in the cap," O'Meara said. "But there's a lot of work still out there to happen."

The nerves are beginning to surface. Even after all these years, contending for a title still makes him antsy. It's a feeling he's almost forgotten in recent years, and glad to have back.

"I've got to go out there and play really well to try to come out on top," said O'Meara, who finished runner-up at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in April. "It would mean a lot."

No one really knows the terrain at the Colorado Golf Club all that well. Only 3 years old, the course hasn't been played that often by pros who don't live in the area. But O'Meara does have some familiarity with it, having traveled here two summers ago to get a look at a challenging course that was co-designed by Ben Crenshaw.

Just like then, it's still windy. And just like then, it remains tricky to gauge, given the thin air.

"Not just the fact that we're at 6,000 feet or whatever, and the ball's going 10 to 12 percent farther, but there are a lot of uphill and downhill shots, quite dramatic on this golf course," O'Meara said.

He found a way to combat that by sinking his putts. He was a putting prodigy Saturday as he had nine one-putts, draining birdies from off the green on the 10th and 17th holes.

"Made a lot of nice putts out there," O'Meara said. "I've been practicing pretty hard at home and working on it."

As for his game plan for Sunday, it's actually quite simple.

"It's going to be manage yourself, be patient, fight hard, just give yourself a chance," O'Meara said.
 

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