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Tom Byrum Leads Vegas Classic Golf

October 13, 2000

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Tom Byrum figures he’s been around too long to worry about things like keeping his PGA Tour card.

The way he’s playing so far this week, he might not have to worry long.

Byrum shot his second straight 7-under 65 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead over Blaine McCallister after two rounds of the Invensys Classic at Las Vegas.

The sudden streak of good play came at an opportune time for the 15-year tour veteran, who is sitting on the bubble on the money list and faced with the prospect of going back to tour qualifying school once again.

``I’m not putting any extra pressure on it,″ Byrum said. ``I’m not getting excited about it now.″

Byrum, who missed the cut in three of his last five tournaments, used a stretch of five birdies in a row beginning on the sixth hole at the Desert Inn Country Club to move into contention.

He added birdies on long putts on Nos. 15 and 17 to finish at 14 under, a stroke ahead of McCallister and two shots in front of Lee Janzen, the two-time U.S. Open champion who has been battling a lengthy clump.

First-round leader Bruce Lietzke slipped to a 71 after an opening 63 and was four back, while Casey Martin shot a 70 that left him tied with Lietzke at 10 under.

Martin, fighting on the course and in the courts to stay on the PGA Tour, had an eagle and three birdies but also made three bogeys at TPC Summerlin, the easiest course in the three-course rotation.

``I played solid, but not great,″ Martin said. ``I just didn’t make as many putts as I did yesterday.″

Byrum, whose only win came in 1989, is 125th on the money list with earnings of $330,583, smack on the bubble for keeping his tour exemption for next year. He’s already gone to tour qualifying school four times, but insists he’s not worried about it on the course.

``You just go play golf,″ he said. ``Just point, click and go and hopefully it’s your time.″

McCallister, whose 64 at the host TPC Summerlin course was the best round of the day, doesn’t have to worry about qualifying school after a solid year that included a near win at the Compaq Classic.

He doesn’t worry about much, in fact, that happens on the course.

``There’s a lot more to this game than the game of golf,″ McCallister said. ``There’s life outside the ropes and I’ve enjoyed my life outside the ropes.″

McCallister three-putted the 18th hole in New Orleans earlier this year and then missed a 4-footer on the first playoff hole that would have given him a win in the Compaq Classic.

He put the near-miss behind him, just as he manages to put away any problems he has on the course.

``Bogeys don’t mean much anymore to me,″ McCallister said. ``Whatever comes into my life is a plus.″

McCallister’s wife, Claudia, suffers from a rare eye disease that allows her to see only peripherally, and McCallister said he has learned from watching his wife face her problems that golf is merely a way to make a living.

It’s an attitude rarely seen among the privileged few on the PGA Tour.

``I think guys need to appreciate what we really have here,″ he said. ``We’re a lucky bunch of guys. I’m fixing to be 42 and we’re playing for more money than I ever thought we would see.″

McCallister first joined the tour in 1982, when the biggest purse was $400,000 and he didn’t get paid sometimes after making a cut because the tournaments paid only to 70th place.

In Las Vegas this week, the tournament purse is $4.25 million, with first prize worth $760,000.

``This is a great life out here,″ McCallister said. ``I’ve seen the downside and I definitely enjoy this more.″

Divots: The Las Vegas tournament is one of only two five-round tournaments on the PGA Tour. Amateurs play with the pros for three rounds, and the play is spread out on three different courses. ... Lietzke, who had a one-stroke lead after the first round, predicted he would not play well at Desert Inn on Thursday, and he struggled to a 1-under 71. ... Phil Mickelson moved into contention with a 7-under 65 that included an eagle and five birdies to get to 10 under.