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Kite flying high on Senior stop

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DEARBORN, Mich. — Tom Kite, bidding for a second major victory in his first season on the senior circuit, finished the third round of the Senior Players Championship with a two-stroke lead over Dana Quigley on Saturday.

Kite, who will leave immediately after today's final round for the British Open, had one bogey in a 5-under-par round of 67 for a 10-under 201 total on the TPC of Michigan. Quigley had a bogey-free 67.

Mike McCullough, playing his 131st straight event, a record on the senior circuit, birdied the final two holes in a round of 67 to trail Kite by five strokes in the fourth and final senior major.

Larry Nelson and Ray Floyd were at 207, each with rounds of 69.

Quigley, starting the day at 8 under, two strokes behind second-round co-leaders Kite and South African Hugh Baiocchi, let them know early the game was on. Kite responded by matching Quigley almost shot for shot. Baiocchi, hurt by some shaky iron play, quickly fell out of contention, shooting a 75 for a 209 total.

Quigley, seeking his second victory of the season, birdied two of the first four holes on his way to a 3-under 33 on the front side. But Kite, whose confidence has soared since changing both his putter and putting stroke two weeks ago, also turned in 33 to maintain a two-stroke edge.

Kite, wearing a khaki baseball-style cap rather than his familiar wide-brimmed straw planter's hat in the stiff wind, played well enough to go even lower but he left birdie putts on the lip at Nos. 7 and 8.

A freckle-faced boy in the gallery was fighting a case of hiccups as Kite lined up a seven-foot putt for possible birdie at the par-3 No. 8. It's doubtful Kite heard the noise, yet he did pull the putt, leaving it on the left edge of the cup.

Kite came back with a side-hill 30-footer for birdie on No. 9, which Quigley matched from seven feet.

Quigley hit a superb approach to within four feet of the pin for birdie at No. 11. But the unflappable Kite matched it by curling in a 10-footer on the par-3 12th at the 6,966-yard layout designed by Jack Nicklaus around wetlands near the world headquarters of sponsoring Ford Motor Co.

A big-breaking 30-footer got Kite to 15 under at the 14th, the signature hole on this golf course, and opened his lead to three strokes over Quigley.

It didn't last long.

Kite, using a 5-iron into the teeth of the wind at the par-5 15th, left his tee shot short of the green. His approach rolled about seven feet beyond the hole, and his putt to save failed. It was Kite's only bogey, leaving him up by two again.

Kite and Quigley both missed eagle putts on No. 17, a 552-yard par 5, and settled for their final birdies of the day.

Kite won The Tradition, the first major of the year, in early April, and also won the SBC Senior Open in June.

Among the other notables: defending champion Hale Irwin was 5 over on the front nine in a round of 73 for a 209 total. Jack Nicklaus, who designed the course, had a round of 71 for a 218 total.