Stephen Keppler, a local club pro, says he knows what to expect today when he steps to the first tee as a co-leader in the final round of the BellSouth Classic.
"It will be nerve-wracking," Keppler said Saturday after finishing off a 5-under-par 67 with a 35-foot birdie putt on the final hole to move into a share of the lead with Jim Gallagher Jr., who had a 68."I never imagined this in my wildest dreams," Keppler said.
"I got a big ole knot in my stomach. I looked up at the leaderboard on 17 and saw my name up there. I said, `Wow! This must be a mistake.' "
Keppler, 34, a British citizen who played college golf at Florida State and elected to be a club pro when his one year on the European PGA Tour wasn't fruitful, had four birdies in a row on the back side before capping the round with the long putt on the final hole.
Gallagher, who had shared the first-round lead, posted a 68, leaving the leaders with a 13-under-par 203 for three trips around the hilly 7,018-yard Atlanta Country Club course.
"I played really solid today," Gallagher said. "I got in more of a groove."
Defending champion John Daly, who started the day with a one-shot lead, never got his game untracked, posting a 71 that left him tied for third at 205 with Guy Boros and Mark Calcavecchia. Boros shot 67 and Calcavecchia 69, each scoring birdies on the par-5 18th, which Daly parred.
"It was a struggling 71," Daly said. "I didn't take advantage of the par-5s, and that hurt. It was a 71 that could have been a lot higher. I couldn't get into a rhythm."
Scott Verplank shot a 67-206 and was tied with first-round co-leader Bill Porter, who shot 68, and Davis Love III, who had a 70.
Four others were tied at 207 - Steve Stricker and Bob Estes with 67s, Tommy Tolles 68 and Brandel Chamblee 69.
Keppler, 34, started his string of four birdies on the 12th with a 2-footer, then scored from 6 feet, 12 feet and 18 inches to cut Gallagher's lead to one shot with three holes to play.
Gallagher, seeking his second victory in three weeks after winning at Greensboro, played a bogey-free round, scoring birdies on the second, ninth, 11th and 12 greens on putts ranging from 5-20 feet, the longest coming on 12.