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IT'S DURANT'S TOURNAMENT BUT IT WAS ARNIE'S DAY

Joe Durant owned a scoring record and the tournament lead. At the Bob Hope Classic, though, the day belonged to Arnold Palmer.

Durant's 29-under-par PGA Tour scoring record for 72 holes and his five-shot lead were almost an afterthought on a day when the 71-year-old Palmer delighted his fans by becoming the first player since Sam Snead 22 years ago to shoot his age in a tour event.

Palmer's 1-under 71 came Saturday before adoring crowds on the PGA West course he designed, while Durant quietly shot a 66 on the nearby La Quinta Country Club course before only a handful of spectators to take a five-shot lead into the final round over Mark Calcavecchia and Kevin Sutherland.

Durant slipped almost unnoticed into the press room while Palmer was holding court before a crowd of media, then watched as Palmer was besieged by autograph seekers as he walked out.

"God bless him for him to go out and play like he did today," Durant said. "We wouldn't be sitting here today without people like him."

In a tournament that Palmer won five times in his prime -- the last in 1973 -- some of the magic came back as he recovered from a double bogey on the 16th hole to birdie the par-3 17th and par the final hole.

"Thank you, Arnie," fans cried as he began his familiar stoop-shouldered walk up the 18th fairway.

It was the final round of the tournament -- one of only two regular-season events Palmer still plays -- for the aging superstar, but the fans who ringed the 18th green gave him a warm send-off.

Palmer obliged by waving to the crowd and giving spectators a thumbs up after he hit a pitch shot within 15 feet on the final hole.

"I don't think I will give up as long as I can compete and be part of the game," said Palmer, who had rounds of 81-79-75-71 to miss the four-day cut. "I was kind of getting down with my game and how it's been. Today was encouraging."

Durant needed so such encouragement after rounds of 65-61-67 gave him a three-shot lead going into Saturday play in the 90-hole event that finally ends today (3 p.m., Ch. 7). His game has been so good all week that even holding the lead for the first time going into the final round of a PGA Tour event didn't bother him.

"If I can just go out and do what I'm doing I'll be fine," Durant said. "I think I need to be in the 60s again to do it."

Durant was in such focus that he didn't even know his 29 under total broke the most under par mark of 28 under set by John Huston in the 1998 Hawaiian Open. The only record he had been thinking of was the 35 under mark set by Tom Kite in this tournament that is the low 90-hole tour record.

Kite set that record in 1993, the year Durant was a rookie on tour.

It was the second scoring record already this year on the PGA Tour, following Mark Calcavecchia's 256 total to win the Phoenix Open last month. Calcavecchia did that on a par-71 course, while the four courses in the Hope rotation all play to par 72s.

Around the links

Scotland's Catriona Matthew completed a wire-to-wire victory in the Hawaiian Ladies Open in Kapolei, shooting a par 72 for a three-stroke victory over Annika Sorenstam. Matthew, who earned $112,500 for her first LPGA Tour victory, had a 6-under 210 total. Sorenstam closed with a 70 for her second runner-up finish in two starts this year. The Swedish star finished two strokes behind Canada's Lorie Kane last week in the Takefuji Classic.

Hale Irwin shot a 5-under-par 66 to take a two-stroke lead over Jack Nicklaus and five others after the second round of the Verizon Classic in Tampa. Irwin had a 6-under 136 on the TPC of Tampa Bay. Nicklaus, 61, who shared the first-round lead with Doug Tewell after a 67, shot a 71 to join defending champ Bruce Fleisher (69), Gil Morgan (67), Bob Gilder (68), Jose Maria Canizares (68) and Bobby Walzel (68) at 138.

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