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Sindelar survives challenges and finishes the day in front

He holds off Pooley, Haas and Thomas in the second round of Champions

March 15, 2009|James Wagner

Three new names charged up Saturday's leaderboard, two charged out once they finished, all while that pesky leader, Joey Sindelar, stuck around long enough to once again finish ahead after a dizzying afternoon at the AT&T Champions Classic at Valencia Country Club.

One name proudly wears old-school knickers because they're more "comfortable," smokes profusely between punishingly long shots and hails from Mississippi, which is obviously distinguishable in his voice. Golfer: Steve Thomas. Place after two rounds: fourth.

Another, arguably the best golfer on the Champions Tour the last few years, brushed off a little rust after skipping last week's tour event to watch his daughter win her state high school basketball title in South Carolina. Golfer: Jay Haas. Place: third.

Another, known as a deeply religious man, dipped out after posting the day's best round, apologizing that he was "already in trouble" for missing his nephew's wedding and didn't want to do the same for the ceremony in Ontario. Golfer: Don Pooley. Place: second.

And then, our leader. Sindelar, known as "Joe Joe" to some, continued his recent tear through Southern California's golf courses by shooting a two-under-par 70, good enough for first place after two rounds.

Sindelar withstood the pain of three bogeys, two of them on holes he birdied the day before, to finish 10 under par overall and hold a one-stroke lead over Pooley.

"I'm having a bit of a food fight with the front nine," said the ever self-critical Sindelar, who continued another day of evocative golf analogies.

And he sure was. Bogeys on holes 5, 8 and 10 sent Sindelar down the leaderboard, which left a void for Thomas, Haas and Pooley to fill.

Thomas, the knickers guy, shot a six-under 66 to get to seven under overall. Haas, the dad of the high school champion, fired a 69 to finish at eight under overall, 136 after two rounds. And, Pooley, the uncle at the wedding, shot a surprising seven under to improve on his first-round 70 and finish in second with a nine-under total.

By the 11th hole, however, Sindelar righted the ship with four birdies over the final seven holes and the outright lead.

It left him in prime position to claim his first Champions Tour win and the nerves that come with being the last group to tee off today.

But like Pooley, he had to rush out after his round. Sindelar had a television appointment to watch his beloved college basketball team play in its conference tournament.

"I'm far more nervous about Syracuse," he said.

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james.wagner@latimes.com

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