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Bean takes two-shot lead at Hickory Classic

CONOVER, N.C. -- Andy Bean remained in position for his first Champions Tour victory Saturday, shooting a 2-under 70 to take a two-stroke lead into the final round of the Greater Hickory Classic.

Bean, who matched his senior best with an opening 63, had an 11-under 133 total on the Rock Barn Golf and Spa's Jones Course. Bean, 53, is in his fourth season on the 50-and-over tour after winning 11 times on the PGA Tour.

"It's funny -- I really played quite well today except for two holes," said Bean, who tied for second in the 2004 Long Island event for his best senior finish. "I started off with a birdie and thought things would keep going from yesterday, and it was a while before I made a putt again.

"I didn't play that much different than yesterday. I just didn't make the putts. I need to play a little better than that tomorrow."

Two-time U.S. Senior Open champion Allen Doyle was second after a 66. Doyle, an 11-time Champions Tour winner, had six birdies in his bogey-free round.

"I got off to a pretty decent start," said Doyle, who tied for 10th in 2004 for his best finish at Rock Barn. "[But] I want to be in the mix on the back nine on Sunday. That's what's important, not where you stand on Saturday. Certainly you've got to be close, but it all comes down to the back nine on Sunday."

Bean and Doyle were briefly tied at 9 under after Bean made bogeys on Nos. 9 and 10, and Doyle birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15.

"I made the turn and saw the scores weren't going too low today, so I had a pretty good feeling," Doyle said.

But Bean's birdie on No. 11 put him back in the lead, and Doyle missed a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 18 that would have tied it again. Bean then went up two strokes with a birdie on No. 18.

"That really turned things around after making those two bogeys," Bean said. "Tomorrow, I need to shoot 67 or 68 at the worst to win it. The good part is that I'm playing well enough to do it."

R.W. Eaks, winless in 72 Champions Tour starts, nine-time winner Tom Kite and Chip Beck, who tied for fifth two weeks ago in Maryland in his tour debut, were three strokes back. Jay Haas, whose first career senior win came in last year's tournament, bounced back from a 74 Friday to shoot a 67 Saturday. He's tied for 27th at 3 under.