SNOQUALMIE, Wash. -- The scoreboards around the TPC at
Snoqualmie Ridge continued to list Ray Stewart's full name on
Saturday, an appreciative gesture for spectators who know nothing
about the Boeing Classic leader.
This much is known: instead of faltering in the second round as
could be expected from an unknown, Stewart expanded his lead. And a
victory on Sunday will make Stewart exempt on the Champions Tour
for a full year.
That means no more qualifying school or Monday qualifying
"No complaints," he said.
Stewart, who only made this week's tournament by surviving a
10-man playoff in a Monday qualifier, shot a 4-under 68 and is the
surprising leader at 10 under entering Sunday's final round.
"Who's to say he's not supposed to be up there?" said Scott
Hoch, who will be in the final group with Stewart on Sunday, four
"We have a lot of good players who have to qualify, and it's
not surprising to me at all that we have a guy who is qualifying
and playing this well."
Stewart wasn't rattled playing in the last group, making 12 pars
and taking advantage of his birdie opportunities. His only hiccup
came on the par-3 17th, when a poor tee shot led to Stewart's first
bogey of the tournament.
Stewart started with a long birdie putt on the par-5 first hole,
then added birdies at Nos. 8, 10 and 14. He rebounded from his only
bogey, with a delicate pitch from the rough to 2 feet on No. 18 and
his fifth birdie.
"Not totally comfortable out there, but I survived," Stewart
said. "Went in with a two-shot lead and now I lead by four, I must
be doing something different than the other guys."
The native of Abbotsford, British Columbia, is playing in his
first tournament since the 2006 Senior British Open and trying to
become the first qualifier to win a Champions Tour event since Pete Oakley at the 2004 Senior British Open.
Ten players in tour history have qualified that week and then
won an event. None of the 10 have ever led wire-to-wire, as Stewart
is trying to accomplish. Stewart's last tournament victory was in
1999 when he won twice on the Canadian Tour -- the Edmonton Open and
the Canadian Masters.
"I'm not predicting I'm going to win the golf tournament, but
it's nice I can screw up four times before anyone catches me,"
While Stewart is a relatively unknown, the group set to try and
chase him down on Sunday is full of marquee players with experience
closing out victories. Seventeen players are within six shots of
Hoch made six birdies and one bogey en route to a 5-under 67, on
a day when his ball striking was inconsistent and he let out an
"ouch" after miss-hitting his tee shot on the 18th. But Hoch took
advantage of a handful of strong approach shots, making four birdie
putts inside 10 feet.
After a warm, sun-filled first round on Friday, Hoch knew some
different weather was on its way Saturday, when both he and his
wife had arthritic aches in their hands. The cool, cloudy Saturday
afternoon didn't squeeze out much rain until after Hoch finished.
"I played much better yesterday and shot 1 under. Today,
nothing great, but just didn't get myself in trouble," Hoch said.
Denis Watson, Bruce Vaughan and Gil Morgan all joined Hoch at 6
under. Vaughan also played in the Monday qualifier and didn't gain
an automatic spot in the field, but was the first alternate and got
in the field when Jim Dent withdrew.
"Qualifying this year is not easy," said Vaughan, who will be in
the last group with Stewart.
Craig Stadler shot the lowest round of the day, firing a 7-under
65 to get to 5 under for the tournament. After making just two
birdies in his first round, Stadler made seven on Saturday and
eagled the 590-yard, par-5 15th.
The group at 5 under also includes Mark O'Meara, who shot 68,
making just one bogey a day after bogeying three of his last four