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Fleisher leads Irwin by one

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LUTZ, Fla., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Bruce Fleisher birdied three straight holes on the back nine Saturday to take a one-shot lead over Hale Irwin before rain halted play during the second round of the Verizon Classic.

The 53-year-old Fleisher used birdies on the 11th, 12th and 13th holes and followed with three straight pars to move to 6-under before the players were ordered off the course due to a large storm in the area.

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"I didn't feel like I was hitting the ball well, but I kept it in play and holed some putts," Fleisher said. "They made the right decision (suspending play), although I would have liked to have finished."

Sixteen players were left on TPC at Tampa Bay course when play was stopped. The second round will resume at 8 a.m. EST Sunday and the final round will begin at 9:40 a.m.

Fleisher, who shot a 3-under-par 68 on Friday, will seek his 16th win on the Champions Tour on Sunday. He has competed in three events this year with his best finish being a tie for seventh at the MasterCard Championship.

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Fleisher birdied the fourth and sixth holes, but gave back those strokes with bogeys on Nos. 8 and 10. On the par-3 11th hole, he sank a 30-foot birdie putt.

"This golf course suits my game," said Fleisher, who battled windy conditions for the second straight day. "You've got to drive the ball in play here. The windy conditions made it tough."

The 2000 champion, Fleisher can become the third golfer to win this event twice. Bob Charles won in 1989 and 1991 and Jim Albus cashed the winner's check in 1993 and 1998.

Irwin finished 15 holes Saturday, including an eagle on the par-5 12th hole. He followed with a birdie on 13 but bogeyed the 14th to fall to 5-under.

"If I can hit the ball tomorrow like I did today, I'll be happy," Irwin said. "But I never got the feel of the greens and wasn't very aggressive today."

First-round leader Mike McCullough also completed 15 holes and was third at 2-under.

Wayne Levi celebrated his 51st birthday by shooting a 70 and was six strokes off the pace at 142. Tom Kite also was at even-par through 15 holes.

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