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Hoch Still in the Lead of Michelob Championship

July 12, 1996

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) _ Scott Hoch was buying one of golf’s oldest axioms.

Hoch’s putting stroke left him but his long game returned Friday, and his 3-under-par 68 in the second round of the Michelob Championship gave him a two-shot lead. It also put a bigger smile on his face than his 64 had on Thursday.

``Today was much better than yesterday. I just got the worst out of it after getting the best out of it yesterday,″ said Hoch, whose 32 putts were nine more than he needed Thursday on the 6,797-yard Kingsmill Golf Club.

``If you’re playing well, it’s easier than when you’re scrambling, even if the putts are not going in,″ he said. ``They say it all evens out, and it evened out today.″

Fred Funk, Tom Purtzer, Tommy Armour III and Bart Bryant shared second place at 8-under 134 in the $1.25 million event, which was interrupted on and off by rain but never got the long-lasting downpour that forecasters said would threaten play.

Mark McCumber, the only two-time champion in the field, moved into contention at 135 after a 67.

Hoch, who on Thursday said he dislikes the British Open because of its generally wet, windy and cold conditions, didn’t seem to mind Friday. He was even through six holes, then went on a tear just as the rain got heavy.

He eagled the par-5 7th, making about a 40-foot putt, then added three birdies in succession on Nos. 10-12. That moved him to 12 under, where he stayed until a plugged approach on 16 and a 3-putt on 17 yielded bogeys.

Funk held second place with a 69, while Purtzer had a 68, Armour a 67 and Bryant a 66.

McCumber was tied with Dicky Pride, who shot a 68, and Frank Lickliter, who bogeyed his last hole to finish with a 69.

Funk, who shared second place with Curtis Strange after the first round, was a study in patience. He parred the first nine holes he played, then made three birdies before finishing with his first bogey of the tournament.

``I couldn’t get anything going,″ he said of the run on pars, which came on the back nine. ``When I birdied 1 and 2, it relaxed me a bit.″

Funk’s last birdie came after he flubbed a chip shot from the rough on the par-5 7th, then chipped in from about 25 feet.

Strange, meantime, fell apart. He bogeyed four of five holes in one stretch and wiped out his opening 65 with a 77, his worst round ever in the tournament played on his home course.

Purtzer, seeking his first victory since 1991, had three birdies and two bogeys over the first six holes, then strung together eight straight pars.

``I just didn’t make very many putts,″ said Purtzer, who finally broke the string when he chipped in on the par-4 6th. ``It’s weird when you have all these putts for birdie that don’t go in and then you chip one in.″

With forecasts calling for significant rain from Hurricane Bertha and talk Thursday that the tournament would probably be shortened to 54 holes, many players spent the round waiting for the rain to begin in earnest.

``You never know how many holes you’re going to play with a hurricane sitting out there,″ Funk said. ``You have to stay patient, but you also want to try to make as many birdies as you can.″

Carl Paulson of Virginia Beach posted the best round of the tournament, an 8-under 63 that left him four back, and Kelly Gibson and Steve Rintoul had 64s. Rintoul made the cut after a first-round 78, Thursday’s worst score.