Howell stretches lead at PGA Tour RSM Classic

RSM Classic leader Charles Howell

RSM Classic leader Charles Howell

But two back-nine bogeys on the par-70 Seaside course in Sea Island, Georgia left him with little breathing room. Gore, who only a few weeks ago became certified to sell insurance in California, overcame a missed tap-in at the turn with three birdies and an 18-foot eagle putt over his next six holes and shot 66.

Lurking one stroke behind are Gore, who has not won on tour since 2005, and the rookie Champ, who is seeking his second win in a month.

Gore, from Valencia and Pepperdine, birdied the last four holes in a brilliant 63 although he says he has been in semi-retirement, while Champ, from Sacramento and victor of the Sanderson Farms Championship three weeks ago, also birdied the last four in his own 63.

Gore only received a sponsor exemption Sunday evening when he was headed to Pebble Beach for an unofficial event.

Despite the shaky moments, Howell carded a two-under 68 to be on a 16-under total of 196 at a tournament he has led from the start.

"It also makes me have a lot of respect for guys that have found out ways to win a bunch". Not bad for an insurance salesman who admittedly began this week with no expectations.

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"I knew I needed something low to have a chance", he said. "Even some of the silly mistakes I made, I just haven't really let them get to me".

Howell, 39, said he could not remember two days of better ball-striking during his almost two-decade long professional career, which has reaped more than $35 million in prize money. "This is the best I've ever putted". With the tees slightly forward because of the wind, he hit driver and 9-iron to 15 feet, and then birdied three of the next four holes. This is only the fifth time he's had the 36-hole lead, and the first time since the 2003 Tour Championship.

"I've nearly done everything in my career, but playing with a lead isn't one thing I've really done a whole lot", said Howell, whose last victory came in the 2007 Nissan Open at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles.

"I could talk to you about finishing second or third a lot".

Howell says one problem he has battled is thinking too far ahead and trying too hard. For two rounds, it has worked beautifully.

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