Jack Nicklaus charged into contention with a 9-under-par 63 - one off the course record - Friday to pull within a shot of Kenny Perry's lead at the halfway point of the $1.4 million Doral Open golf tournament.
"I haven't been in this position for a long time," he said. "Who knows what I'm going to do? I hope I have enough focus."Three-time Doral winner Andy Bean, who played in the same threesome with Nicklaus, pronounced Nicklaus's round: "the best I've ever seen him play.
"He hit every shot good. He was relaxed all day."
Nicklaus, 51, responded, "I played awfully well. There's no question about that. If it wasn't (the best), I would have to think back and find one."
Nicklaus has a two-day total of 10-under-par 134.
Perry shot a 64 over the par 72, 6,939-yard Doral "Blue Monster" course for 11-under-par 133. The course was yielding numerous low scores because the greens have been softened by rains earlier in the week.
Paul Azinger would have been tied with Nicklaus but was disqualified after a television viewer called officials and alerted them of Azinger's rules violation. Azinger had kicked a stone out of his way before making a shot out of the water lining the 18th hole Thursday. Azinger was notified of his disqualification after his second round, in which he shot 65 for a 10-under-par 134.
Four golfers were tied at 8-under-par 136: Bean with a 68; first-round leader Rocco Mediate with a 68; Mark O'Meara with a 69 and Ross Cochran with a 67.
Defending champion Greg Norman shot his second straight 71 for a 142. Spanish star Seve Ballesteros, making his 1991 debut in this country, skied to 78-153 and missed the cut.
First-round co-leader Keith Clearwater soared to a 73 and was six shots off the pace at 139.
Nicklaus, the all-time leading money winner is trying to win his first non-seniors event since the 1986 Masters.
He said he had to think about when was the last time he was in contention on the tour.
Nicklaus birdied the first three holes with putts of 6, 10 and 20 feet. He sank a 6-foot putt for a birdie 3 on No. 6 and a 3-footer on the par 5 eighth.
He birdied out of a bunker on the par 5 10th, sinking a 4-foot putt and then parred the next four holes before birdying the next three.
He hit a 6-iron to 8 feet on the 15th, a 9-iron to 12 feet on the par 4 16th and a 7-iron to 10 feet on the par 4 17th, all for birdies.
Perry played with the second group of the day and then watched the rest of the field try to catch up with him.
He has yet to win a tournament in five years on the tour and has managed only two runner-up finishes. This year he has played four tournaments and failed to make the cut in three of them.
He is returning to the tour after three weeks off to take care of his family. His 6-year-old daughter seriously injured her leg when his car rolled out of his driveway at Franklin, Ky., in January and hit a tree. He said his other two small children were also hurt but all of them "are fine now."
"I hit 16 greens and didn't miss any fairways," Perry said. "It was probably the best competitive round in five years out here."
Azinger couldn't resist a bitter remark after he was disqualified but otherwise took the disappointment with class.
Azinger had driven into the edge of a lake. He blasted the submerged ball out of the water and managed to salvage par. As he set up for the shot with his right foot in the water and his left foot on some rocks, he used his left foot to kick a stone from under his foot.
According to Rule 13-4 of the U.S. Golf Association, a golfer cannot move a loose impediment inside a hazard. Azinger actually was disqualified under Rule 6-6d, which prohibits a player from signing an incorrect card.At Wailea, Hawaii, Cindy Rarick made a birdie here and a birdie there, advancing in the Women's Kemper Open with a 2-under-par 69 Friday to hold a two-stroke lead entering the final round.
Rarick, who has led thoughout, hasn't torn up the Wailea Resort Blue Course on Maui Island, but has played deliberate golf while most contenders have failed to make a move or have fallen back.
Third-round victims included defending champion Beth Daniel, whose triple bogey on the 7th hole helped her drop from second place into oblivion.