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Glasson Leads, but Not on Automatic Pilot : Golf: He overcomes double bogey for one-shot margin over Els, Lowery and Frost.


SAN FRANCISCO — Bill Glasson knows how to fly the ball to the green, how to get shots to land close to the hole and how to take off when he has a lead.

Glasson knows all this because he is a pilot, which comes in handy when he is at the controls of his plane.

Glasson had a wonderful flight Friday. He shot a three-under-par 68 and took a one-shot lead into the third round of the Tour Championship at the Olympic Club.

His 36-hole score of 134 leads the $3-million event and puts him in, well, the pilot's seat for the two final rounds.

If he's fortunate enough to win the $540,000 first prize, Glasson said he knows what not to do with the money. He won't buy a new plane. He had something else in mind.

"Gas is expensive," he said.

At the PGA Tour's richest tournament, the race to the bank is hotly contested. U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, Steve Lowery and David Frost share second place at 135.

Rick Fehr shot 69 and is at 136. Mark McCumber was two-over par on the back nine and finished with a 71, which puts him at 137, three shots off the pace.

Jeff Maggert, two over par after six holes, finished with 66, the day's best round, and is at 138 with Corey Pavin.

At the very least, Glasson had a lively round. He had six birdies. He also had a bogey and a double bogey, that on the 149-yard par-three 15th.

Glasson was glib about it.

"I made a five on the par three, which I don't think you are supposed to do," he said. "Otherwise it would be a par five. I guess I parred the short par five."

It was an ugly hole for Glasson. His eight-iron off the tee landed in the bunker. He couldn't get the ball out of the sand with his second shot, then two-putted from 20 feet for double bogey.

That put him back into a four-way tie with Els, Lowery and Frost, but only for a while.

When Glasson birdied No. 17 with a 12-foot putt, he was back in the lead again.

There are 36 holes left and as a veteran pilot, Glasson knows it's a long journey. He has made many, some in his Beechcraft, flying from tournament to tournament.

But Glasson's appearance in this event, which features the top 30 money winners on the PGA Tour, is the culmination of a remarkable trip back.

Glasson, 34, has had four knee operations. He had a medical exemption in 1992, when he injured his back compensating for his knees.

In April, Glasson had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow to remove calcified deposits and he took 2 1/2 months off to recover.

He still played in 20 tournaments, won at Phoenix and earned $557,110 to finish 22nd on the money list. You would think that would be pretty satisfying for anybody.

Glasson? He'd rather be flying.

"I play golf so I can fly," he said. "I have to do something to support my hobby."

He said he gets a thrill out of flying that he doesn't find in golf.

"Golf isn't life-threatening," he said. "Well, I guess it could be. Pro-ams, mainly.

"I just find flying very relaxing. It's a release for me."

It won't be long before Nick Price gets his release from the tournament grind. The player of the year is next to last after shooting a 74 Friday.

Els' 67 was remarkable mainly because he had been worried about ever getting a chance to shoot it. He got caught in a traffic jam on the way to the course and had to cut short his usual warm-up routine to make his tee time.

After his experience with the traffic, Els said he is going to make some adjustments. "I'll probably take a different route," he said. "Maybe a helicopter."

Maybe Glasson can fly it.

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