BEACHWOOD, Ohio (AP) – Michael Allen, winless in 271 PGA Tour events, shot a 3-under 67 Saturday for a one-shot lead over Jeff Sluman and Tom Kite through three rounds of the Senior PGA Championship.

Allen, who turned 50 in January, is making his senior debut and finds himself atop the leaderboard in the tour’s first major championship of the year. He stands at 3-under 207 through 54 holes.

Sluman had the lead to himself before bogeying the 16th and 18th holes, completing a 70 that tied him with Kite, who shot a 69.

Larry Mize (71), Gil Morgan (707) and Tim Simpson (68) are another shot back at 209. Joey Sindelar (69), Bruce Fleisher (69) and Jay Don Blake (71) are three shots off the lead.

Allen, who turned pro in 1984, deliberated whether to play in this week’s Byron Nelson event on the PGA Tour or to make his first foray on the seniors tour. So far, it’s been a wise decision.

His 66 in the second round matched the lowest of the day, and his 67 on Saturday was again the lowest in the field.

He was even on the day through the first 13 holes before stringing together birdies on the next three holes. A wedge to 6 feet set up a birdie at the par-4 14th before he birdied both of the back-to-back par-5 holes on the long and treacherous back nine at Canterbury Golf Club.

The Arizona native was on the right fringe in two shots at the 15th, chipped to 3 feet and hit the birdie putt. At the signature 616-yard 16th hole, he hit a driver and a 3 wood to the upslope in front of the green, then chipped to 6 feet for another birdie.

Through the first three rounds, Allen leads the field by hitting 76 percent of greens in regulation. The key has been accuracy off the tee – he’s driven into the fairway on 31 of 36 chances.

In 12 starts on the PGA Tour this year, Allen has made the cut in nine. His best finish was a tie for 22nd at the AT&T Pebble Beach.

He has won tournaments as a professional before, taking the 1998 Nike Greater Austin Open and the 1989 Bell’s Scottish Open on the European Tour.

Two of the biggest names in the field struggled down the stretch.

Sluman, winner of the 1988 PGA Championship and with six wins on the regular tour and two as a senior, was just above the pin high in three shots at the 16th hole but three-putted for bogey. He then found trouble off the tee at the closing hole and made another bogey.

Kite, who won the 1992 U.S. Open among his 19 PGA Tour victories and has won 10 times on the Champions Tour, had not bogeyed a hole all day until bad drives on the last two holes.

Mize had an adventure-filled final six holes. He was tied for the lead with Sluman and Kite after nearly holing his tee shot on the par-3 12th, tapping in for birdie from 6 inches.

At the 14th, he hit into the thick, wiry rough on his first two shots and made double-bogey, only to slam-dunk a chip from the back fringe for eagle on the next hole. He then bogeyed two of the final three holes.

Veteran pro Fred Funk was within a shot of the lead before closing with three bogeys for a 69 that left him at 211 along with five others including two-time Masters winner and Champions Tour money-leader Bernhard Langer (73).

Scotsman Ross Drummond, a surprise leader after a second-round 66, needed 13 more putts than the 24 he used on Friday. He lapsed to a 76 and was at 212.

AP-ES-05-23-09 1853EDT


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