- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 25, 2006

Jose Coceres waved away reporters after signing his card at yesterday’s Booz Allen Classic and said “no talking” as he slipped through the gallery to get back to the clubhouse.

The Argentine could be excused for his lack of gregariousness after he shot a 7-over 78 at TPC at Avenel, a round that dropped him to 7-under and knocked him out of contention for his first victory since 2001.

Coceres shot consecutive 64s to reach the midpoint one shot behind Ben Curtis and played in the day’s final group. Yet the round quickly got away from Coceres, who bogeyed five holes on the front nine while Curtis crafted a 67.

“At the fifth hole, he missed a little gimme putt, and then he put one in the water,” said Luis Sira, Coceres’ caddie. “That was frustrating.”

Coceres hoped his strong play Thursday and Friday would help him at least finish in the top 10, which would assure him a spot in next week’s tournament in Hartford, Conn. He lost his tour card after last year, and is playing in only his fourth event of the year.

Coceres is three shots out of the top 10 and will need to regroup while playing in one of the first groups of the day. He did birdie No. 16 as he belatedly steadied himself in the final four holes, though it didn’t change the vexing nature of the day.

“I asked him to grind it out and grind it out,” Sira said. “He tried to, but he couldn’t quite do it. It was a tough day at the office.”

Allenby irked

Robert Allenby, who was sidelined with a back injury earlier this season, shot a bogey-free 66 to move into a tie for fifth. Early in the round it seemed like he could have finished higher. Allenby was 4-under through his first six holes but birdied only No. 10 the rest of the way to earn a spot in today’s next-to-last group.

The Aussie trails by eight shots, and probably will need to challenge Charles Howell III’s course record of 61 to have a chance to win.

“I should have shot that today,” Allenby said. “That’s why I was disappointed with 5-under; it was like shooting 5-over. Hopefully tomorrow we can shoot a low one, and get off to a good start anyway.”

Long day awaits

Few players will put in as much work this weekend as Paul Azinger. The 1993 PGA Championship winner, who is at 1-under, is playing his round before heading to ABC’s broadcast booth, where he is an analyst.

Part of it is out of necessity. ABC did not bid for a part of the new television contract that begins next year, and Azinger used his one-time exemption for being among the top 50 in career earnings to keep his card for this year.

“I’ve found it difficult to walk away from it,” said Azinger, who is 95th on the money list. “ABC is no longer doing it and I have to play good. I’m just doing the best I can at this point to try to juggle.”

Azinger will have chances to do two jobs in a day for a few more events until CBS takes over most of the broadcast chores after the British Open. ABC also carries events the final six weeks of the season, though Azinger is uncertain about his future as a broadcaster.

“It’s really not up to me,” Azinger said. “I told my agent to make some calls if he thought there was interest and let me know after the season is over. I don’t know if there’s any interest or not. I’m just going to enjoy pulling a little double duty for a while.”

Chip-ins

Mathias Gronberg and Brian Henninger, who both barely made the cut at 2-under, each shot 64 to match Nick O’Hern for the day’s top round … Glen Day had arguably the day’s wildest round, recording an eagle, seven birdies and six bogeys on his way to a 3-under 68. … Local favorite Fred Funk shot a 2-under 69 to move to 5-under for the tournament.

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