Hallet flies past Watson, Nicklaus in USF&G; Black, three others are tied for second


NEW ORLEANS -- It was one of golf's classic matchups: Hall of Famers Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, paired together in the last group on the course, staring into each other's cold blue eyes.

They should have taken a moment to glance at the rest of the field.

Had they done so, they would have seen nine players -- men with names like Hallet and Edwards and Black and Mayfair -- blowing past them yesterday in the third round of the USF&G; Classic.

Jim Hallet, not yet a winner in a four-season career on the PGA Tour, surged past those aging giants into the third-round lead with a 65 that put him at 205, 11 under par.

He was six strokes in front of Nicklaus, seven ahead of Watson going into today's final round.

"I was hoping we would all play well so I could play with one of those guys Sunday," Hallet said. "They are the greats."

Ronnie Black, one of four tied for second at 208, agreed.

"I respect those guys immensely," he said. "They're the two guys looked at and pulled for when I was a kid growing up.

"I tried not to look at their names when I went by them."

But go past them he did. So did Joel Edwards and Billy Mayfair and Ian Woosnam and Kenny Knox and Tom Sieckmann.

Nicklaus, 51, and Watson, 41, started the day's play in a struggle for the tournament lead and a revival of their flagging careers.

They ended it in frustration and a fight for survival.

"It certainly wasn't Turnberry, was it?" Nicklaus said, referring to the last time he and Watson had been paired together in the final group -- in the 1977 British Open at Turnberry, Scotland. In that 1977 confrontation, Watson won with closing rounds of 65, 65 to Nicklaus' 65, 66.

On a calm, cloudy day, when scores in the mid-60s were almost common, Nicklaus shot 74 and Watson 73.

"Disappointing," said Nicklaus, who occasionally gave vent to a rare display of anger at errant shots. "Not much you can say about it."

Still, he said, "It was fun playing with Jack. We had a lot of people following us and cheering for us.

"And it didn't do any good."

While they were fuming and fretting and floundering, Edwards, Mayfair and Woosnam, of Wales, moved into a tie for second with Black at 208.

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