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Purdy good time at Heritage

A 65 round puts him 4 strokes ahead of Slocum

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Ted Purdy reacts after making his birdie putt on the sixth green during the third round of the MCI Heritage Saturday on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Ted Purdy reacts after making his birdie putt on the sixth green during the third round of the MCI Heritage Saturday on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Mary Ann Chastain, Associated Press

Ted Purdy sat down to discuss his strong play, then dropped the clip-on microphone with a thud.

"I'm new at this," he said.

He's also in position for his first PGA Tour after shooting a 6-under 65 Saturday to take a four-stroke lead over Heath Slocum into the final round of the MCI Heritage at Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Purdy, a winner last year on the Nationwide Tour, expects to be able to finish things off Sunday.

"I've had many people tell me I've got a great swing and my putting stroke is great and everything else," said Purdy, 30. "But until you believe it for yourself, you're not worth a damn. And I haven't been worth a damn until, I think, this week."

Purdy seized control with five birdies on the front nine and continued his stellar play, moving to 12-under 201.

Purdy, who won the First Tee Arkansas Classic in a playoff last year, qualified for the PGA Tour by finishing 15th on the Nationwide money list.

Purdy's play was a surprise, considering he missed the cut in his last two tournaments and had just one score in the 60s in 12 rounds before this week. His best finish in a PGA Tour event was a tie for 11th in the 2000 Tucson Open, where his $72,000 in earnings surpassed the $46,600 he made in 27 PGA Tour events the previous year.

He said he took a lesson from his teacher, former LPGA pro Pam Barnett at the Moon Valley Country Club in Arizona, about hitting targets. There's almost no better course to put that into practice than Harbour Town Golf Links. Its small greens and relatively short length at 6,973 yards meant that anything on the greens was a potential birdie.

Can Purdy keep it up?

"Absolutely," he said. "I mean, I hit 12-under par on this golf course, pretty dang good."

While Purdy soared, British Open champion Ben Curtis faded with a 75. Curtis, the second-round leader after a season-best 66, struggled with his putting and fell into a tie for 13th.

Purdy made a 14-foot birdie putt at No. 4 to tie Curtis for the lead and moved ahead with a 9-footer for birdie at the fifth. He added a third straight birdie on the sixth hole, then closed the front side with a 10-foot birdie putt, extending his lead to two strokes.

Purdy added a 12-foot birdie putt at the 12th, raising his putter as the ball disappeared into the cup.

Purdy, who went 33 holes without a bogey, moved to the top of the leaderboard against a field lacking some star power after the Masters.

Masters champion Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia skipped the MCI Heritage. Those who came from Augusta National just couldn't get going.

Ernie Els, who finished second to Mickelson last week, has played steady golf. Even with Saturday's 68, Els was six shots behind Purdy. But he still believes he can make a run, under the right circumstances.

"It all depends on our leader," Els said. "Ted's playing beautifully. If he can come back to the field a little, we may have a shot."

Defending champion Davis Love III was closer to missing the cut Friday than earning his sixth title at Harbour Town. He's 10 shots behind Purdy after a 69. The round was Love's first under 70 on a course he usually dominates.

Slocum, Purdy's roommate in 1996 during the U.S-Japan collegiate matches, had previously broken through for his first PGA Tour victory in Tucson. Slocum said the win taught him "I can stay in the moment, kind of go out and play the golf course and not worry about what other people are doing."

Curtis had a miserable day as his putting let him down again. He left a 23-foot putt about four feet short on the first hole and settled for bogey. He missed birdie putts inside 12 feet on the fifth, eighth and ninth holes, then missed one for par from about 11 feet on the 12th after Purdy's birdie. Suddenly, he was trailing by four shots.

His struggles continued as he made double bogey on the par-3 17th and wound up eight shots behind the leader.

TAKEFUJI CLASSIC: At Las Vegas, Cristie Kerr rolled in a 3-foot par putt on the seventh playoff hole to beat South Korean rookie Seol-An Jeon.

Kerr won after squandering a four-shot lead when she bogeyed four of the last six holes of regulation, including missing a 3-foot putt on No. 18 that would have won it.

Kerr, who also won the 2002 Longs Drugs Challenge, closed with a 1-over 73 to match Jeon (69) at 7-under 209 in the 54-hole event.

Gloria Park (67) finished third at 6 under, and Mi-Hyun Kim (70) was another stroke back.

BLUE ANGELS CLASSIC: At Milton, Fla., Gil Morgan shot his second straight 4-under 66 in windy conditions to take a one-stroke lead over Tom Jenkins into the final round of the Blue Angels Classic. Morgan, the SBC Classic winner last month and Champions Tour money leader this season, has 23 victories on the 50-and-over tour. Jenkins shot a 65, and Gary Koch and Wayne Levi were three strokes back after 67s on The Moors course.

SEVILLE OPEN: At Seville, Spain, Argentina's Ricardo Gonzalez shot a 3-under 69 to take a one-stroke lead in the Seville Open. Gonzalez had an 11-under 205 total. Italy's Emanuele Canonica (70) and Scotland's Alan McLean (68) were tied for second.