Michael Allen's furlong lead at the U.S. Senior Open is down to a neck.
Noticeably bothered by it late in Saturday's third round, Allen bogeyed the 16th and 18th holes. His lead shrank to two strokes — he started the day ahead by five — entering Sunday's finish at Omaha Country Club.
Allen's neck problems, which started last October, have flared up in Omaha. The past two days, he's gotten treatment from Akron, Ohio, chiropractor Keith Ungar.
“This morning, if Doc wasn't here, I couldn't have played today for sure,” Allen said. “For a guy who's never had an injury, this has kind of been interesting for me, see what guys have to go through.
“So I'm trying to get through it. It's still tight. I don't know what it is.”
The 2009 Senior PGA champion, who won earlier this season on the Champions Tour, shot 72 with three birdies and five bogeys to finish 54 holes at 8-under par.
Said Fred Funk: “The fact that Mike didn't take off, he just gave everybody a chance.”
Funk birdied his final two holes for a 67. He's tied for second at 6 under with Kenny Perry, who had one of the day's two 64s. Perry started the round 10 strokes behind Allen, Funk seven.
Corey Pavin also shot 64 to get to 4 under. Rocco Mediate, playing in the final twosome with Allen, also struggled and is five back after shooting 72.
Ten players are at 2 under, only six back, including Mark O'Meara, Tom Lehman and Jeff Sluman.
As the final twosome, Allen and Perry tee off at 12:55 p.m. Sunday.
Allen was coming off a 67-63 start at OCC, setting the course record with his second round.
“Today I had a few more bads than goods, but it's nice to be in the lead,” Allen said. “If you'd have given me a two-shot lead to start the week, I would have been pretty thrilled to have it, I'm sure.”
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After one birdie and one bogey on the front nine, Allen was at 10 under and still had a five-stroke lead over Mediate and Funk. He bogeyed the 10th and 11th, but regained those lost strokes with birdies on the 13th and 14th.
On 16, he couldn't get up and down for par — missing a 4-footer — from the front-right bunker after hitting a poor 7-iron. He left short an 18-foot birdie putt over a ridge on 17 and then nearly made a miracle par on 18.
“I hit, I thought, a pretty good drive, but the wind was really picking up and blew a little left, pushing it into the left rough,” he said. “I hit a pretty good 6-iron out of that deep rough and rolled way up there, and then it rolled all the way back into the short rough.
“Then I hit a pretty good wedge and came up about 20 feet left. And I hit a really good putt. I really thought I had that, but to be denied. That was my day, to be denied.”
Perry, who's trying to win back-to-back senior majors, eagled the sixth hole with a tap-in putt. He was 3 under on both nines and had the only birdie of the day on the par-4 10th that played Saturday at 501 yards.
“I was sitting around last night thinking, 'I've got to somehow get within five of him,' ” the new Senior Players champion said. “I was in that rocking chair seat, in a very aggressive mode where if I go out and play great today, I've got a chance to move my way up the leader board. Or if I don't play any good, it's OK too.
“I birdied the first two holes right out of the gate, a great start. I was trying to birdie every hole out there, and I had so many great opportunities. I mean, I played a phenomenal day. It could have been 59.”
Funk had been at 6 under for the tournament after making one of the day's seven birdies on the par-3 seventh, the pin tucked back left behind a trio of bunkers. Then he backed up with a bogey on 8 and a double bogey on his favorite hole, the 10th.
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“It just really threw me for a loop there walking off because it was like, golly, I played the hole,” Funk said. “I'm taking on that creek and taking on everything down there, and I drove it up there and have an 8-iron and just hit it in the wrong spot.
“I was trying to do everything I could not to make double. I was trying to just accept bogey, and I still left my first chip short in the rough. Then I was really in trouble.”
Funk said a par 3 on 11, which played nearly 50 yards longer than on Friday, saved his round. The 2009 Senior Open champion made a 7-footer there, then a 12-footer for a par on 15 after his wedge shot came back down the fairway.
After his birdie on 17, he delighted the gallery at 18 with another one after an approach shot of more than 200 yards.
“I had a 3-iron hybrid. It's really a very confused club. It's in counseling because it doesn't know what it is. It's about my 215 (-yard) club,” Funk said. “I was actually thinking a 3-wood, but 3-wood would have been way too much. I didn't know if I could get it up there with all that wind. But I hit it really solid. I was just pleased that it was on the green.”
Saturday's scores were lower than what might be expected for a third round at a Senior Open. There were 27 players who broke par.
Funk's theory is that the golfers are getting more comfortable with a course that remains tricky.
“Probably with Mike out there shooting 63 yesterday, everybody went, heck, somebody can do it,” Funk said. “If somebody does it, everybody has a whole new idea of what a good number is.
“If you get those (birdies on par 5s), you take advantage of the shorter holes and get by the tough ones and don't make any big boo-boos like doubles on 10, you'll do all right.”
Perry said the soft greens, getting extra water because of the heat, are a factor.
“Normally, U.S. Open courses are firm and fast,” he said. “If you're in the rough, you can't control it. It will go over the green. These greens will hold shots, even out of the rough.
“I think that's the biggest difference. If you get it in the fairway, you can attack this golf course. That was the key for me today. I hit a lot of fairways.”
Allen said a smaller lead will make him play more aggressively.
“I can't just sit back and try not to make mistakes and hope that things work out,” he said. “Now I've got a fire under my rear, and I got to get moving.”