CASTLE ROCK, Colo. – The preliminaries are over. The endurance test begins.

Cameron Beckman made five birdies and an eagle Saturday to take the lead at the International with 23 points, one ahead of Billy Mayfair, Charles Howell and Brandt Jobe with about half the field still playing the second round.

Up next today – rounds three and four, a grueling 36 holes amid the tall pines, thin air and steep hills with a $900,000 first prize on the line.

“We’re not out there hitting people and tackling people, but walking 36 holes on this golf course is not easy,” Howell said. “I think it’s just as important to physically stay strong as it is mentally.”

Adding to the difficulty is that this tournament, using the modified Stableford scoring system, can change dramatically with one swing of a club – much more so than a regular medal-play event.

Beckman knows.

He got in contention when he holed out from the sixth fairway in his first round Friday for an eagle, worth five points. After grinding through his first nine holes Saturday, he made an eagle on the par-5 first for another five points, vaulting him toward the top of the leaderboard.

“Someone said the second shot almost went in,” Beckman said. “That would have been nice. But the eagle sort of relaxed me.”

Under the scoring system, players get eight points for a double eagle – there have been three in the history of the tournament – five for eagles, two for birdies, none for pars and lose one point for a bogey.

Purtzer retains lead with strong second round

BLAINE, Minn. – Tom Purtzer shot a 3-under 69 Saturday to take a three-stroke after two rounds of the 3M Championship at the TPC of the Twin Cities.

Purtzer, who opened with tournament record-tying 9-under 63, moved to 12-under 132 in chasing his second Champions Tour victory in 17 months.

Five players are tied for second at 9 under, including Lonnie Nielsen (68), Bruce Lietzke (71), Craig Stadler (67), David Eger (68) and Hajime Meshiai (66). Defending champion Tom Kite is in a five-player logjam at 8 under after a second-round 69.

For the third straight year, Purtzer will lead the field on the final day of the 54-hole event. Last year, he closed with a 74 and tied for third, three behind Kite. In 2003, a final-round 74 left him in a tie for 10th, four behind winner Wayne Levi.

Purtzer, who has won two of six Champions Tour events in which he was leading or tied for first heading into the final round, had three birdies on the front nine and was 13 under after his birdie at No. 12. But on the par-3 17th, his birdie try from 57 feet stopped short and he missed the par try on the ensuing putt.

“Kind of a disappointing finish,” Purtzer said. “All in all, I felt like I played pretty solid.”

Colsaerts leads after three rounds

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Nicolas Colsaerts shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to open up a two-stroke lead after three rounds of the Johnnie Walker Championship.

The 22-year-old Belgian birdied the 16th and 18th holes to move ahead of England’s Richard Bland and Italy’s Emanuele Canonica. Bland shot a 68 and Canonica a 69 to tie for second.

Colsaerts leads with an 8-under total of 208.

Ireland’s Damien McGrane and Wales’ Bradley Dredge, who both shot 69, are tied for fourth at 211.

“I didn’t miss any iron shots today,” Colsaerts said. “I hit a lot of greens. I just wanted to hit a lot of greens and two-putt rather than going for pins.

“I was really patient, which is not one of my biggest strengths,” he said. “I must be getting old.”

Colsaerts’ best result in five years on Tour was a tie for fifth at the 2003 Lancome Trophy in France.

English Ryder Cup player Paul Casey, the biggest name left in the event, had two birdies in a 2-under 70 and was six strokes back.

Sorenstam leads by a stroke in Sweden

LODDEKOPINGE, Sweden – Tournament host Annika Sorenstam birdied the last two holes for a 5-under-par 67 Saturday, giving her a one-stroke lead after three rounds of the Scandinavian TPC.

Sorenstam, the world’s top-ranked player, was at 4-under 212, with Norway’s Suzann Pettersen at 213 after a 69.

France’s Gwladys Nocera, trying to win a spot on the team for next month’s Solheim Cup at Crooked Stick, Ind., was at 214 after three-putting the last hole for a 71. Natalie Gulbis, an American and the highest-ranked player in the field behind Sorenstam, shot a 69 for 215.

Sorenstam made four birdies on the back nine that has three of the Barseback course’s five tough seaside holes. On the front nine, the Swede had three birdies and her only two bogeys.

“To finish birdie-birdie on this course – two difficult holes – was promising for tomorrow. Compared to yesterday, this was quite an improvement,” said Sorenstam, who had a 75 Friday in tougher weather.

“There’s nothing better than playing in the last group on a Sunday and having a chance to win a golf tournament,” she added. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to play with Suzann tomorrow.”

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